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Israel's Nuclear Arsenal 
and American Foreign Policy 

Seymour M. Hersh 


Random House New York 

For Elizabeth, Matthew, Melissa, and Joshua 

Author's Note 

This is a book about how Israel became a nuclear power in 
secret. It also tells how that secret was shared, sanctioned, and, 
at times, willfully ignored by the top political and military offi- 
cials of the United States since the Eisenhower years. 

In it, you will find many senior American officials being 
quoted — most of them for the first time — about what they 
knew and when they knew it. These officials spoke to me not 
because of animosity toward the Israeli government, but be- 
cause they realized the hypocrisy of the American policy of 
publicly pretending that Israel's nuclear arsenal does not exist. 
That policy remains in effect as this is written. 

I chose not to go to Israel while doing research for this book. 
For one thing, those Israelis who were willing to talk to me 
were far more accessible and open when interviewed in Wash- 
ington, New York, or, in some cases, Europe. Furthermore, 
Israel subjects all journalists, domestic and foreign, to censor- 
ship. Under Israeli rules, all material produced by journalists 
in Israel must be submitted to military censors, who have the 
right to make changes and deletions if they perceive a threat to 
Israeli national security. I could not, for obvious reasons, sub- 
mit to Israeli censorship. Those in the past who have broken 
the rules have been refused reentry to Israel. 

Those Israelis who talked were not critics of Israel's nuclear 
capability, nor would they feel secure without the bomb. They 
spoke because they believe that a full and open discussion of 
the Israeli nuclear arsenal — and of the consequences of its de- 
ployment — is essential in a democratic society. 

Seymour M. Hersh 
August 1991 
Washington^ D.C. 


Author's Note ix 

1. A Secret Agreement 3 

2. The Scientist 19 

3. The French Connection 33 

4. First Knowledge 47 

5. Internal Wars 59 

6. Going Public 71 

7. Dual Loyalty 83 

8. A Presidential Struggle 93 

9. Years of Pressure 117 

10. The Samson Option 129 

11. Playing the Game 143 

12. The Ambassador 159 

13. An Israeli Decision 173 

14. A Presidential Gift 183 

15. The Tunnel 195 


16. Prelude to War 209 

17. Nuclear Blackmail 225 

18. Injustice 241 

19. The Carter Malaise 259 

20. An Israeli Test 271 

21. Israel's Nuclear Spy 285 

22. An Israeli Asset 307 

Epilogue 317 

Acknowledgments 321 

Notes 323 

Index 335 



A Secret Agreement 

America's most important military secret in 1979 was 
in orbit, whirling effortlessly around the world every ninety- 
six minutes, taking uncanny and invaluable reconnaissance 
photographs of all that lay hundreds of miles below. The satel- 
lite, known as KH-11, was an astonishing leap in technology: 
its images were capable of being digitally relayed to ground 
stations where they were picked up — in "real time" — for in- 
stant analysis by the intelligence community. There would be 
no more Pearl Harbors. 

The first KH-11 had been launched on December 19, 1976, 
after Jimmy Carter's defeat of President Gerald R. Ford in the 
November elections. The Carter administration followed 
Ford's precedent by tightly restricting access to the high-qual- 
ity imagery: even Great Britain, America's closest ally in the 
intelligence world, was limited to seeing photographs on a 
case-by-case basis. 

The intensive security system was given a jolt in March 1979, 
when President Carter decided to provide Israel with KH-11 
photographs. The agreement gave Israel access to any satellite 
intelligence dealing with troop movements or other potentially 
threatening activities as deep as one hundred miles inside the 
borders of neighboring Lebanon, Syria, Egypt, and Jordan. 
The Israelis were to get the real thing: the raw and spectacular 
first-generation imagery as captured by the KH-11, some of it 
three-dimensional — and not the deliberately fuzzed and dulled 
photographs that were invariably distributed by the American 
intelligence community to the bureaucracy and to overseas al- 


lies in an effort to shield the superb resolution of the KH-ll's 

It was a significant triumph for the Israeli government, 
which had been seeking access to the KH-11 since the moment 
of launch three years before. Jimmy Carter's decision to pro- 
vide that high-tech imagery was suspected by some American 
intelligence officials as being a reward for Prime Minister 
Menachem Begin's successful Camp David summit with Egyp- 
tian President Anwar Sadat the year before. These officials un- 
derstood what many in the White House did not: adding an 
Israeli dimension to the system was a major commitment — and 
one that would interfere with the KH-ll's ability to collect the 
intelligence its managers wanted. The KH-11 was the most im- 
portant advance of its time, explained a former official of the 
National Security Agency (NSA), the unit responsible for all 
communications intelligence, and every military and civilian 
intelligence agency in the government seemed to have an ur- 
gent requirement for it. The goal of the KH-ll's managers was 
to carefully plan and "prioritize" the satellite's schedule to get 
it to the right place at the right time, while avoiding any abrupt 
shifts in its flight path or any sudden maneuver that would 
burn excess fuel. With good management, the multimillion-dol- 
lar satellite, with its limited fuel supply, would be able to stay 
longer in orbit, provide more intelligence, and be more cost- 
efficient. Carter's decision to give Israel direct access to the 
KH-11 completely disrupted the careful scheduling for the 
satellite's future use; it also meant that some American intelli- 
gence agencies were going to have less access to the satellite. "It 
was an unpopular decision in many, many ways," said the for- 
mer NSA official. 

There were no official protests inside the administration, 
however: those few who were distressed by the KH-11 agree- 
ment understood that any disquiet, or even second-guessing, 

* The KH-11 was at the time known to be the most significant advance in outer- 
space reconnaissance. The key element of the sixty-four-foot-long satellite was a down- 
ward-looking mirror in front of the camera that rotated from side to side, like a peri- 
scope, enabling the satellite to track a single location as it moved across the atmosphere. 
The result was a stereoscopic image of unusually high quality that could be even 
further enhanced by computer. 


could jeopardize their own access to such information and thus 
reduce their status as insiders. 

The Israelis, not surprisingly, viewed the KH-11 agreement 
as a reaffirmation of respect and support from the Carter ad- 
ministration, whose director of central intelligence, retired Ad- 
miral Stansfield Turner, had abruptly cut back intelligence 
liaison with Israel and other friendly nations as part of a re- 
structuring of the Central Intelligence Agency. The Israelis, 
accustomed to far warmer treatment by Presidents Richard M. 
Nixon and Gerald R. Ford, saw the men running the Carter 
administration as naive and anti-Semitic; as men who perhaps 
did not fully understand how entwined Israel's primary for- 
eign intelligence service, Mossad, had become with the CIA 
during the Cold War. The 1979 agreement on the KH-11 was no 
less than the twenty-eighth in a series of formal Israeli- Ameri- 
can cooperative ventures in strategic intelligence since the 

Nothing has ever been officially disclosed about these ar- 
rangements, many of which were financed off-the-books — that 
is, from a special contingency fund personally maintained by 
the director of central intelligence. Through the 1960s, for ex- 
ample, one of the most sensitive operations in the Agency was 
code-named kk mountain (kk being the CIA's internal digraph, 
or designation, for messages and documents dealing with 
Israel) and provided for untold millions in annual cash pay- 
ments to Mossad. In return, Mossad authorized its agents to 
act, in essence, as American surrogates throughout North Af- 
rica and in such countries as Kenya, Tanzania, and the Congo. 
Other intelligence agreements with Mossad revolved around 
the most sensitive of Israeli activities in the Middle East, where 
American dollars were being used to finance operations in 
Syria, and inside the Soviet Union, where the CIA's men and 
women found it difficult to spy. Some of the Soviet activities 
apparently were financed by regular Agency disbursements — 
and thus cleared through the appropriate CIA congressional 
oversight committees — but the complex amalgamation of 
American financing and Israeli operations remains one of the 
great secrets of the Cold War. 

The Israelis had responded to Admiral Turner's 1977 cutback 


in liaison — in essence, his refusal to pay for the continuing 
operations in Africa and elsewhere — by sharply reducing their 
flow of intelligence back to Washington. In the Israeli view, the 
KH-11 agreement in March 1979 was made inevitable not by 
the success of Camp David but by the CIA's failure to antici- 
pate the steadily increasing Soviet pressure on Afghanistan in 

1978 and the continuing upheavals in Iran. There were large 
Jewish communities in both nations — many shopkeepers in 
Kabul, Afghanistan's capital, were Jewish — and Mossad's infor- 
mation was far superior to the CIA's. Most galling to the Presi- 
dent and his top aides was the CIA's embarrassingly inept 
reporting on Iran, where Shah Mohammed Reza Pahlavi, a 
U.S. ally of long standing, had been overthrown in February 

1979 in a popular uprising — despite a year-long series of upbeat 
CIA predictions that he would manage to cling to power.* The 
CIA had rejected the Israeli view, provided in a trenchant anal- 
ysis in 1978 by Uri Lubrani, a former Israeli ambassador to 
Iran, that the shah would not survive. The CIA had failed the 
President and forced the American leadership to turn once 
again to Israeli help in trying to anticipate world events. It was 
no accident that Lubrani was attached to the Israeli delegation 
that negotiated the March 1979 KH-1 1 agreement in Washington. 

The KH-11 imagery provided Israel — depicting any military 
activity inside the border of Israel's four neighbors — is known 
as I&W, for intelligence and warning, and carries the highest 
classification marking in the American intelligence commu- 
nity. The photographs, once processed, were to be picked up 
by Israeli military attaches at a special Pentagon office con- 
trolled by the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA), the mili- 
tary's joint intelligence service. There was one significant 
caveat in all this: Israelis were not to be given any intelligence 
that could help them plan preemptive strikes on their neighbors. 
"I set up the rules," one senior American intelligence official 

* In August 1977, for example, the CIA produced a sixty-page study for the Presi- 
dent, entitled "Iran in the 1980s/' that was predicated on the assumption that the shah 
would "be an active participant in Iranian life well into the 1980s." Five months later, 
Carter, to his everlasting embarrassment, publicly toasted Iran at a 1977 New Year's 
Eve state dinner in Tehran as "an island of stability in a turbulent corner of the 


recalled. "The system was designed to provide [the Israelis] 
with everything they could possibly use within [the one-hun- 
dred-mile] striking distance. If it was inside Syria or Egypt, 
they got it all. If it was Iraq, Pakistan, or Libya, they didn't." 

The official added, however, that he and his colleagues antici- 
pated from the outset that the Israelis would do everything 
possible to get around the restrictions of the agreement. One of 
the immediate Israeli arguments was that the limitations 
should not apply to the joint enemy of the United States and 
Israel — the Soviet Union. In the months ahead, there would be 
constant Israeli pressure for access to satellite intelligence on 
the Soviet supply lines to Syria and the Soviet involvement in 
the training of Iraqi combat divisions in western Iraq. Those 
requests were flatly turned down by the Carter administration. 

Nonetheless, Israel was once again an essential ally, and even 
if it could not get unfettered access to KH-11 imagery, the 1979 
agreement did include language permitting Israel to make spe- 
cific requests for satellite intelligence. Each request would be 
handled on a case-by-case basis. 

The package was too much for British intelligence officials, 
involved Americans recalled, who were described as "mad as 
hell" about Israel's being provided with the chance to obtain 
intelligence that they — World War II allies and fellow members 
of NATO — could not get.* 

* The British were denied full access, American officials explained, in part because 
of concern about what turned out to be a major leak inside the British communications 
intelligence establishment, known as GCHQJfor Government Communications Head- 
quarters). American intelligence officials had learned by the end of the Carter adminis- 
tration that the existence and capability of the KH-11 system were known to the 
Soviets, and there were suspicions that someone in a senior position in British intelli- 
gence was funneling vast amounts of technical information to Moscow. In the fall of 
1982, a former high-level GCHQ^employee named Geoffrey A. Prime, of Cheltenham, 
was arrested on sex charges, and he subsequently confessed to spying for the Soviets. 
Prime, who was sentenced to a thirty-five-year jail term, was said by British authorities 
to have had access to "matters of the utmost secrecy." There were British newspaper 
reports that senior British officials had known of Prime's betrayal for two years before 
the arrest but had not told their American counterparts. The incident led to inevitable 
tension between the intelligence services of the two allies. "We were holding back the 
Brits for a definite reason," one American said. "We knew they had a real problem 
there and we were very, very sensitive about what we gave them." The stern American 
position was more than a little offset by the fact that a junior CIA clerk named William 
T. Kampiles had been sentenced to forty years in jail in 1978 after his conviction for the 
sale of a top-secret KH-1 1 technical manual to the Soviets. Kampiles received $3,000 for 
the manual, which included no KH-11 photographs — and thus presumably did not 
reveal just how good the satellite's optics could be. The trial of Kampiles raised a 


Israel, as the British may have suspected, did have a secret 
agenda in its constant maneuvering for KH-11 access, but that 
agenda only became clear to a few top Reagan administration 
policymakers in the fall of 1981. The unraveling began with a 
bombing raid in Iraq. 

It was a Sunday afternoon in early June 1981, and Richard V. 
Allen, President Ronald Reagan's national security adviser, 
was taking it easy, sipping iced tea on the sundeck of his subur- 
ban Virginia home and shuffling through a week's worth of 
unread cables, many of them highly classified. 

An aide in the White House situation room, which is staffed 
around the clock, telephoned to report that the Israelis had 
informed Washington that they had successfully bombed the 
Iraqi nuclear reactor at Osirak, twelve miles southeast of Bagh- 
dad. Allen immediately telephoned Reagan, who was spending 
the weekend at the presidential retreat at Camp David, in the 
nearby Catoctin Mountains of Maryland. 

The President, he was told, had just boarded his helicopter 
for the trip back to the White House. "Get him off," Allen 
ordered. It was, after all, the new administration's first Middle 
East crisis. The President took the telephone call amid the 
background thumping of the helicopter blades. 

"Mr. President, the Israelis just took out a nuclear reactor in 
Iraq with F-i6s." Israel, aided by long-term, low-interest Amer- 
ican credits, had been authorized in 1975 to begin the purchase 
of seventy-five F-i6s "for defensive purposes only." 

"What do you know about it?" 

"Nothing, sir. I'm waiting for a report." 

"Why do you suppose they did it?" 

The President let his rhetorical question hang for a moment, 
Allen recalled, and then added: 

"Well. Boys will be boys."* 

number of embarrassing questions about security at CIA headquarters, where 
Kampiles worked; at least sixteen other KH-11 technical manuals were missing, and 
there was testimony to the effect that Kampiles — and others, if they wished — were able 
to leave the premises without any security check. 

* Moments later, Allen added, Secretary of State Alexander M. Haig, Jr., who had 
competed from inauguration day with all senior officials for influence in the adminis- 
tration, telephoned and excitedly demanded to know where the then-airborne Presi- 


The next morning, according to Allen, there was a meeting 
of Reagan's high command at which Secretary of Defense Cas- 
par Weinberger proposed canceling the F-16 aircraft sale. Oth- 
ers at the meeting, including Vice President George Bush and 
Chief of Staff James A. Baker III, agreed that some sanctions 
against Israel were essential. Reagan glanced at Allen at one 
point and with a gesture made it clear he had no intention of 
taking any such step: "He rolled his eyes at me," Allen said. 

The President's private acceptance of the raid was not re- 
flected in the administration's public actions. That afternoon 
the State Department issued a statement, said to have been 
cleared by the President and Secretary of State Alexander M. 
Haig, Jr., formally condemning the bombing, "which cannot 
but seriously add to the already tense situation in the area." 
Nonetheless, recalled Allen, "Reagan was delighted . . . very 
satisfied" by the attack on the reactor at Osirak. "It showed that 
the Israelis had claws, a sense of strategy, and were able to take 
care of problems before they developed. Anyway, what did 
Israel hurt?" Haig similarly was forbearing in private. 

The Israeli bombing triggered worldwide protest, and a few 
days later the White House announced the suspension of a 
scheduled delivery of four more F-i6s, a continuation of the 1975 
sale. Two months later, with little fanfare, the administration's 
real policy emerged: the suspension was lifted and the aircraft 
were delivered without incident. 

There was controversy inside Israel, too, over the bombing, 
which had been debated at the highest levels of the Israeli gov- 
ernment since late 1979. Yitzhak Hofi, the director of Mossad, 
and Major General Yehoshua Saguy, chief of military intelli- 
gence, both opposed the attack, primarily because there was no 
evidence that Iraq was as yet capable of building a bomb.* They 

dent was: "Dick, I've got to talk to him right away." Allen asked why. "I've just got to 
talk to him." "Is it about the reactor?" Haig said yes. Allen said he was too late: he had 
just briefed Reagan. "What?" exclaimed Haig. "How did you find out?" Allen laughed 
at the recollection and added that Haig wouldn't know it, but he had wasted his time in 
rushing to tell Reagan: "The fact is you couldn't score brownie points that way. Ronald 
Reagan never remembered who told him first." 

* That issue also was hotly debated inside the American intelligence community, 
whose experts on nonproliferation did not have "complete information" — as one in- 
volved official put it — about Iraq's capabilities. After the Israeli strike, the American 


were joined in futile dissent by Yigael Yadin, the deputy prime 
minister. At a late-1980 planning session, Saguy continued to 
inveigh against the mission, arguing that the adverse reaction 
in Washington would be a more serious national security threat 
to Israel than was the Iraqi reactor.* He took exception to the 
view that any Israeli military steps to avoid a "second Holo- 
caust" were permissible. Saguy suffered for his dissent; the 
chief of military intelligence was not told of the mission until 
June 4, three days before it was scheduled to take place. Saguy 
responded by renouncing any responsibility for the raid and 
threatening — briefly — to withhold intelligence. 

The mission planners, anxious to avoid international protest, 
had gone to extremes to mask the operation: it was hoped that 
Iraq and the rest of the world would be unable to fix blame for 
the bombing on the unmarked Israeli Air Force planes. The 
attack had been carried out, as planned, in two minutes, and 
the likelihood of any detection was slight. But Menachem Be- 
gin, buoyed by the success, stunned his colleagues on June 8 by 
unilaterally announcing the Israeli coup. On the next day, as 
Israel was besieged with protests, the prime minister defended 
the operation and vowed that Israel was ready to strike again, if 
necessary, to prevent an enemy from developing the atomic 
bomb. "If the nuclear reactor had not been destroyed," Begin 
said, "another Holocaust would have happened in the history 
of the Jewish people. There will never be another Holocaust. 
. . . Never again! Never again!" 

Two days later, at a British diplomatic reception, Begin 
again shocked the senior officials of his government, as well as 
the intelligence community, by bragging that the Israeli planes 
also had destroyed a secret facility buried forty meters — 130 feet 
— below the reactor at Osirak that was to serve as the assembly 
point for the manufacture of Iraqi nuclear bombs. The ap- 
palled Israeli officials knew that Begin's remarks were descrip- 

experts concluded that Israel had bombed only one of two major targets at the site; it 
had destroyed the reactor as planned but left the nearby reprocessing plant untouched. 
It was in the reprocessing facility that plutonium could be chemically recovered from 
spent reactor fuel rods. 

* Many in the Israeli military also were glad to see Iraq sink hundreds of millions of 
dollars into the reactor rather than purchasing more tanks, planes, and other conven- 
tional arms. 


tive not of the nonexistent underground weapons facility at 
Osirak, but of one that did exist in Israel. Begin also told news- 
men at the reception that the Iraqi government had hidden the 
facility from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), 
which had inspected the reactor at Osirak in January 1981, un- 
der provisions of the 1968 Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, to 
which Iraq was a party. 

Israeli government spokesmen attempted to recoup the next 
day by telling newsmen that Begin had misspoken; the under- 
ground facility was only four meters, not forty, below the sur- 
face. The government's worst fears, however, were not 
publicly realized in the subsequent days and weeks: Israel's big- 
gest secret remained a secret.* 

By 1981, Israeli scientists and engineers had been manufactur- 
ing nuclear bombs for thirteen years at a remote site known as 
Dimona, located in the barren Negev region south of Jerusa- 
lem. Aided by the French, Israel had constructed a nuclear re- 
actor as well as a separate facility — hidden underground — for 
the complex process of chemically separating the reactor's most 
important by-product: weapons-grade plutonium. Begin had 
visited the underground facility at Dimona at least once since 
becoming prime minister in 1977 an d> Israeli officials told me, 
had been provided in the days before the raid at Osirak with a 
detailed memorandum about it. The officials suggested that Be- 
gin, in his public remarks, had simply transferred what he had 
seen and read about Dimona to Osirak. "He confused one with 
the other," said one Israeli, acknowledging that his interpreta- 
tion was a charitable one. 

Yitzhak Hofi, the Mossad chief, was not as charitable. Two 
weeks after the Osirak bombing, he gave an unprecedented 
newspaper interview — Hofi was cited only by title in the arti- 
cle, under the rules of Israeli censorship — to complain about 
politicians who were compromising secret intelligence. There 
was no doubt in the Israeli intelligence community about 
which politician Hofi was criticizing. 

* Some American intelligence analysts instantly understood that Begin had made a 
mistake, but their reports were highly classified and never reached the public. 


The secrets of Dimona may have been safe from the Western 
press, but Dimona itself was facing a much more immediate 
threat. Israeli officials acknowledged that their intelligence ser- 
vices saw evidence in the days after the June 7 raid that Iraq, 
obviously seeking revenge, had begun moving some of its So- 
viet-supplied Scud missiles closer to the Iraq-Jordan border. If 
the Scuds were to be moved farther west into Jordan, Dimona 
would be in range of a retaliatory strike by the Iraqis. Unlike 
the reactor at Osirak, which had not yet begun full-scale opera- 
tion, Dimona had operated around the clock for eight months a 
year to produce and reprocess weapons-grade plutonium for 
nuclear weapons. An Iraqi strike could scatter deadly radioac- 
tive contamination for dozens of miles. 

Well before the bombing at Osirak, however, Israeli officials 
had ordered the dome-shaped reactor and underground 
reprocessing plant at Dimona to cease all operations; both were 
kept out of service through the end of the year. The Israeli Air 
Force was also instructed to keep intelligence aircraft in the sky 
on a twenty-four-hour alert. There is no evidence that Wash- 
ington saw or understood any of the Israeli defensive actions. 

A few British intelligence officials immediately suspected 
that Israel had used the high-resolution KH-11 photography to 
target Osirak, and they complained to their American counter- 
parts about it. In essence, one involved American recalled, they 
were saying, "We told you so." The brilliant reputation of the 
KH-11 system was reinforced, ironically, by Israel's successful 
raid: high-resolution satellite photographs of the destroyed re- 
search reactor were on the desks of Washington decision-mak- 
ers within a few hours of the mission. 

The British were right, as a subsequent highly secret investi- 
gation showed: Israel had gotten much valuable intelligence 
from the KH-11. There was evidence that William J. Casey, 
Ronald Reagan's director of central intelligence, had inadver- 
tently played a key role. 

Casey was an enthusiastic supporter of the imagery-sharing 
program from the moment he took office, and early in his ten- 
ure he ordered that the Israeli liaison officers be provided with 
a private office near CIA headquarters. The goal, apparently, 
was to give the Israelis direct access to the American intelli- 


gence officers who processed the KH-11 imagery to make sure 
that all essential intelligence was turned over. Only Israelis, so 
the reasoning went, would know what was important to Israel. 
"Casey was prepared to show them a little thigh," one high- 
ranking American official explained. "But he didn't roll over 
and play dead for the Israelis." 

The CIA director, suddenly confronted after Osirak with se- 
rious questions about Israel's abuse of the KH-11 intelligence- 
sharing agreement, authorized a small, ad hoc committee of 
experts to review the matter.* The group was ordered to oper- 
ate with the heightened security that always surrounded Israeli 
intelligence issues. . 

What the review group found was stunning. 

In little more than two years, the Israelis had expanded what 
had been a limited agreement to the point where they were 
able to extract virtually any photograph they wished from the 
system. Most surprisingly, the Israelis had requested and re- 
ceived extensive KH-11 coverage of western Russia, including 
Moscow. "The Israelis did everything except task [target] the 
bird," one disturbed military man acknowledges. There was 
anger at the senior officials of the Central Intelligence Agency 
and Defense Intelligence Agency for what some officials con- 
sidered their "very lax" management of the liaison agreement: 
"We set up the system and we didn't bother to monitor what 
they [the Israelis] were doing," the military man said.** Wil- 
liam B. Bader, who was serving in 1979 as assistant deputy un- 

* Casey had made his first secret trip to Israel as CIA director a few months earlier 
and, according to Israelis, put in motion an ambitious list of joint intelligence opera- 
tions aimed at rolling back Communism — actions, Casey believed, that had all but 
ceased during the Carter years. These included renewed espionage activities inside the 
Soviet Union, aid for the anti-Communist Solidarity movement in Poland, and eco- 
nomic and military support — in violation of a congressional ban — for Jonas Savimbi's 
UNITA resistance movement in Angola. Casey also insisted upon and apparently re- 
ceived Israeli promises of support for what emerged in the early 1980s as one of his 
near-obsessions — covert aid to the anti-Communist Renamo insurgency in Mozam- 
bique. (A 1988 State Department study placed the number of civilians murdered by 
Renamo at more than 100,000, with an estimated one million Mozambicans forced into 
refugee status.) Despite the successful visit, Casey was embarrassed and rankled by the 
fact that his newfound colleagues in Israel had not seen fit to inform him in advance of 
the planned attack on Osirak. His CIA thus had failed to anticipate the first serious 
foreign policy crisis in the Reagan administration. 

* # Adding to the dismay, surely, was the fact that President Carter, as a security 
measure, had, shortly after taking office, ordered a freeze on the number of codework 
clearances in the government. The freeze led to enormous complications throughout 


der secretary of defense for policy, recalled his frustration at 
knowing that the Israelis were "edging deeper into the over- 
head" and not knowing how to stop it. "You didn't know 
where to complain," Bader said. "We knew that these guys [the 
Israelis] had access that went around the colonels and the dep- 
uty assistant secretaries." If a complaint got to the wrong office, 
he explained, "you might get your head handed back to you." 

A former high-ranking NSA official recalled his anger upon 
subsequently learning early in the Reagan administration that 
Israeli military officers were permitted to attend Pentagon 
meetings at which future missions and orbital flight paths for 
the KH-11 were discussed. "People who knew about it wanted 
to puke," the former official said. "With the care this [the KH- 
11] got everywhere else, this blew our minds." However, an- 
other senior American intelligence officer, agreeing that "a lot 
of guys were shocked and dismayed," explained that he was 
less troubled by the Israeli encroachment: "It was in our na- 
tional interest to make sure in 1981 that the Israelis were going 
to survive." This officer depicted the direct access provided to 
Israel as "a compromise. Israel wanted to make sure that noth- 
ing important was passed by. It needed to make sure it got all it 
needed." The Israeli officer assigned to the Pentagon, the intel- 
ligence officer said, was only relaying Israel's intelligence needs 
to the men in charge of the KH-11 program. The Israeli, in 
return, was allowed to "stand by" as the KH-11 funneled its 
real-time imagery back to Washington. 

A State Department official who was involved said he and 
Secretary Haig viewed the arguments about Israeli access as 
"an intelligence community theological debate. Why have a 
fight? Give them the pictures. It's a confidence builder." It was 
a zero-sum issue for the Israelis, this official added: if the Reagan 
administration refused them access to the KH-11, they would 
turn to Congress "and get the money [inserted into the foreign 
aid budget] for a satellite, launching pad, and downlink." 

To Richard Allen as well, Israel's manipulation of the 
KH-11 agreement was no big deal: "I figured they had friends" 

the intelligence world, because many analysts were not permitted access to the infor- 
mation — such as that collected by the KH-11 — they needed to do their job. 


in the Pentagon who informally had provided the expanded 

It was finally agreed in the White House after the ad hoc 
review that the photographs could continue to flow to Israel, 
but with the initial 1979 restrictions emphatically back in force. 
"We were going to narrow the aperture," Allen said; Israel 
would no longer be permitted to get KH-11 imagery of the 
Soviet Union or any other country outside the hundred-mile 
limit. Allen personally relayed that message in the fall of 1981 to 
Ariel Sharon, the controversial and hard-line Israeli general 
and war hero who had been named defense minister in August 
by the newly reelected Begin government. 

Begin and Sharon were in Washington in September to 
lobby the White House in support of a far-reaching Israeli plan 
for a U.S.-Israeli strategic cooperation against a shared enemy: 
the Soviet Union. An Israeli memorandum for Washington ar- 
gued that the two nations needed to cooperate "against the 
threat to peace and security of the region caused by the Soviet 
Union or Soviet-controlled forces from outside the region in- 
troduced into the region." To meet that need, the Israelis 
sought Reagan's approval for the pre-positioning of American 
military forces, joint use of airfields, joint planning for military 
and political contingencies in the Middle East and Persian 
Gulf, and the U.S. financing of a receiving station, or down- 
link, for the KH-11 satellite imagery, to be located in Tel Aviv. 

The Israeli proposals were understandably viewed as exces- 
sive and were much watered down during negotiations over 
the next few months, to Sharon's dismay. Sharon pushed espe- 
cially hard on the downlink issue, also insisting that the receiv- 
ing station be "dedicated" — meaning that the encoded signals 
to and from the satellite to the downlink could be read only by 
Israel. The United States thus would be in the untenable posi- 
tion of not being able to know what intelligence the Israelis 
were obtaining from its own satellite system. 

It was a preposterous suggestion, and Allen privately told 
Sharon so. "It was rough," Allen recalled. "He started bitching 
about American aid being Band-Aids and mustard plaster. He 
kept on saying, 'You want to give us Band- Aids. If that's what 
you mean by strategic alliance, we're not interested.' " Allen, a 


strong supporter of Israel, said he wasn't intimidated: "I saw 
Sharon as a big tough swashbuckler who did a lot of bel- 

The bombing at Osirak led to no significant changes in the 
U.S -Israeli relationship, nor were any serious questions raised 
about Israel's need for so many KH-11 photographs from so 
many places — a need that risked a breach in Israel's relations 
with the United States. Despite the brief flap over Israeli ac- 
cess, there were no lessons learned and KH-11 photographs 
continued to flow to Israel. Some far-reaching changes were 
triggered, however, for Israel. 

The French, who had also been the chief suppliers of nuclear 
materials and expertise to Iraq in return for oil, were embar- 
rassed as well as outraged by the Israeli attack. There were a 
few officials in Paris who sought revenge by breaking long-held 
vows of silence, and they began to tell about an earlier French 
nuclear relationship in the Middle East: as secret partners in 
the making of the Israeli bomb. 

Ariel Sharon concluded after the cabinet room meeting that 
the United States was not a reliable strategic ally. He turned to 
a clandestine Israeli intelligence agency controlled by his de- 
fense ministry, whose operations at the time were not fully 
understood by Washington, and stood by as it intercepted intel- 
ligence on the Middle East and Soviet Union from the most 
sensitive agencies in America — the kind of intelligence that 
Israel had been told it would no longer be able to get. An 
American Jew working in the U.S. intelligence community had 
volunteered his services to the agency several years earlier; he 
would soon be put to work spying on his country for Israel. 

It's almost certain that no one in Ronald Reagan's White House 
considered Sharon's request for a KH-11 downlink in Tel Aviv 
in terms of Israel's nuclear ambitions. Similarly, the ad hoc 
review group that William Casey had set up after Osirak to 
monitor compliance with the 1979 intelligence-sharing agree- 
ment blithely accepted Israel's explanation for its violation of 
the rules: it had obtained the off-limits KH-11 imagery of the 
Soviet Union solely to monitor the ongoing supply links be- 
tween Russia and its allies in Syria and Iraq. 


Indeed, there were not many, even in the American intelli- 
gence community, who understood in 1981 why Israel had col- 
lected satellite imagery of the Soviet Union and why Sharon 
was so insistent on continued access to that intelligence: Israel 
was itself a nuclear power that was targeting the Soviet Union 
with its warheads and missiles. 


The Scientist 

The scientific father of the Israeli bomb, its J. Robert 
Oppenheimer, was a slight, pale, chain-smoking scientist 
named Ernst David Bergmann, a rabbi's son who was a refugee 
from Nazi Germany. 

The international scientific community came to know Berg- 
mann after Israel's successful War of Independence in 1948 — 
the first Arab-Israeli War — as a brilliant organic chemist and 
director of the chemistry division at the Weizmann Institute of 
Science, Israel's preeminent research facility. He was chairman 
of Israel's Atomic Energy Commission, set up in 1952, and, on 
those few occasions when he appeared in public, an outspoken 
advocate of nuclear research for peaceful purposes. Cigarette 
constantly in hand, Bergmann was a picture of charm and wit 
at international conferences on nuclear science. His high intel- 
ligence seemed obvious. So did Israel's need for nuclear power: 
therfe would be no oil available for purchase from Arab neigh- 

By 1947, Bergmann was telling friends that the large phos- 
phate fields in the Negev desert contained meager, but recover- 
able, traces of natural uranium. Within two years, a 
department of isotope research was established at the 
Weizmann Institute and young Israeli scientists were being 
sent abroad to study the new fields of nuclear energy and nu- 
clear chemistry. A joint research program also was begun with 
the nascent French Atomic Energy Commission. By 1953, Is- 
raeli researchers at Weizmann had pioneered a new process for 
creating heavy water, needed to modulate a nuclear chain reac- 
tion, as well as devising a more efficient means of extracting 
uranium from phosphate fields. 


In November 1954, Bergmann introduced himself to the Is- 
raeli citizenry in a radio address and reported on Israel's prog- 
ress in peaceful nuclear research. He announced — two years 
after the fact — that an Israeli Atomic Energy Commission had 
been established. The next year Israel signed an agreement 
with the United States, under the Eisenhower administration's 
Atoms for Peace program, for cooperation in the civilian uses 
of atomic energy. Washington helped finance and fuel a small 
nuclear reactor for research, located at Nahal Soreq, south of 
Tel Aviv. The agreement called for the United States to have 
inspection rights to the small reactor under the Atomic Energy 
Act of 1954, which provided for an Israeli guarantee, to be veri- 
fied by inspections, that the nuclear materials would not be 
diverted to weapons research. 

These were years in which David Ben-Gurion — Israel's 
white-maned "Old Man," who served, with one brief interlude, 
as prime minister and defense minister from 1948 to 1963 — re- 
peatedly bragged to visitors that Israel would build its own 
atomic reactor, utilizing its own natural uranium and locally 
manufactured heavy water. Nuclear energy, Ben-Gurion 
promised, would soon be producing the electricity and creating 
the desalinated water needed to make the Negev desert bloom. 

Bergmann's dream of nuclear power plants was sincere, but 
it also amounted to a totally effective cover for his drive to 
develop the bomb. Ben-Gurion was the man in charge of all of 
this, with the aid of his brilliant young protege Shimon Peres, 
who was thirty years old when Ben-Gurion appointed him di- 
rector general of the ministry of defense in late 1953. 
Bergmann's Israeli Atomic Energy Commission, as the public 
was not told in the radio address, was under the direct jurisdic- 
tion of Peres and the defense ministry. Nuclear power was not 
Ben-Gurion's first priority; the desert would glow before it 

These three men would find an international ally to help 
create the bomb and, equally important, would accept from the 
beginning that the bomb would have to be privately financed 
by wealthy American and European Jews who shared their 
dream of an ultimate deterrent for Israel. Any other approach 
would make the bomb impossible to keep secret. 


Israel's nuclear bomb ambitions in the early 1950s were not 
foreseen in Cold War Washington. The United States was pre- 
occupied with the Korean War, economic and social conditions 
in Europe, the strength of the Communist Party in France and 
Italy, fears of internal Communist subversion, and the continu- 
ing political battle with the Soviet Union. 

There were crises in the Middle East, too. Egypt's corrupt 
King Farouk was overthrown in a coup in 1952, and a radical 
new leader, Gamal Abdel Nasser, emerged in 1954 as premier. 
British troops, after a stay of more than seventy years in Egypt, 
were on their way out of North Africa. So were the French. By 
1955 the French government was facing insurrection from three 
former colonies, Morocco, Tunisia, and Algeria. Morocco and 
Tunisia would gain their independence by 1956, but Algeria, 
whose opposition National Liberation Front (FLN) was 
strongly supported by Nasser, became the main event. The 
bloody war, with its 250,000 dead, came close to destroying 
France over the next five years and provided inspiration to 
Arab revolutionaries throughout the Middle East. 

Nasser, with his talk of Pan-Arabism, also rattled the Israelis, 
who instinctively turned to the United States. American Jews 
were Israel's lifeline: hundreds of millions of American dollars 
were pouring in every year. Ben-Gurion had tried for years to 
join in a regional security pact with Washington — to somehow 
be included under the American nuclear umbrella — with no 
success. Israel had publicly supported the American position in 
the Korean War and secretly went a step further: Ben-Gurion 
offered to send Israeli troops to fight alongside the United Na- 
tions' forces in South Korea.* President Harry S. Truman said 
no, apparently in fear of backing into a security arrangement 
with Israel. The United States, England, and France had 
agreed in their 1950 Tripartite Agreement that all three nations 
would maintain the status quo in the Middle East by not pro- 
viding any significant quantity of military equipment to Arabs 

* Israel's position on the Korean War enraged Moscow and led to a rupture in 
diplomatic relations. The Soviet Union, which had been the first nation to recognize 
the State of Israel in 1948, would for the next thirty years castigate Israel for its "racist 
and discriminatory" treatment of Palestinians and ties to American "imperialism." 


or Israelis. The Eisenhower administration came into office in 
1953 with no intention of changing the policy. 

Israel tried, nonetheless, to establish some kind of a special 
relationship with President Eisenhower, with no luck. In the 
mid-1950s, a year-long series of renewed talks on a mutual secu- 
rity treaty with Washington went nowhere. At one point, as 
Ben-Gurion told his biographer, Michael Bar-Zohar, he consid- 
ered offering Eisenhower American bases in Israel in return 
for a security commitment. That idea was dropped when the 
talks faltered. There were equally unsuccessful strategems to 
purchase fighter planes and other weapons, but Eisenhower 
essentially maintained the 1950 embargo on arms sales to Israel 
throughout the eight years of his presidency. The effect was to 
limit America's influence in the Middle East and deny Wash- 
ington a chance to have an impact on Israeli foreign policy. 
The policy suited the men around Eisenhower, many of them 
Wall Street lawyers who thought that America's oil supply 
would be jeopardized by arms trafficking with Israel. 

Ben-Gurion's private nightmare in these years — as his close 
aides knew — was of a second Holocaust, this time at the hands 
of the Arabs. Israel's only security, Ben-Gurion repeatedly 
warned, would come through self-defense and self-reliance. 
"What is Israel?" he was quoted by an aide as asking. 
". . . Only a small spot. One dot! How can it survive in this 
Arab world?" Ben-Gurion believed that he understood Arab 
character and was persuaded that as long as Arabs thought they 
could destroy the Jewish state, there would be no peace and no 
recognition of Israel. Many Israelis, survivors of the Holocaust, 
came to believe in ein brera, or "no alternative," the doctrine 
that Israel was surrounded by implacable enemies and there- 
fore had no choice but to strike out. In their view, Hitler and 
Nasser were interchangeable. 

For these Israelis, a nuclear arsenal was essential to the survi- 
val of the state. In public speeches throughout the 1950s, Ben- 
Gurion repeatedly linked Israel's security to its progress in sci- 
ence. "Our security and independence require that more young 
people devote themselves to science and research, atomic and 
electronic research, research of solar energy . . . and the like," 
he told the Israeli parliament, the Knesset, in November 1955. 


Ernst Bergmann explicitly articulated the ein brera fears in a 
letter two years later: "I am convinced . . . that the State of 
Israel needs a defense research program of its own, so that we 
shall never again be as lambs led to the slaughter." 

Ben-Gurion, Shimon Peres, and Ernst Bergmann believed 
that Israel's independent arsenal finally could provide what 
President Eisenhower would not — the nuclear umbrella. 

No outsider — not the international scientific community, the 
Israeli public, nor American intelligence — could understand 
the significance of Bergmann's two other government portfo- 
lios in the early 1950s: as scientific adviser to the minister of 
defense and as director of research and planning for the de- 
fense ministry. The Israelis in charge of those posts knew Berg- 
mann to be the most uncompromising and effective advocate 
for nuclear weapons, the man most directly responsible — along 
with the French — for Israel's status by the end of the 1960s as a 
nuclear-weapons state. Bergmann and the French not only got 
it done in the Negev desert, but they kept it secret, just as 
J. Robert Oppenheimer and his colleagues had kept the Man- 
hattan Project undiscovered in the desert at Los Alamos. 

The young Bergmann had been introduced in the early 1920s 
to the world of the atom as a student of organic chemistry at 
the Emil Fischer Institute of the University of Berlin. He was 
on the fringe of a circle of eminent scientists, including Ernest 
Rutherford in England and Marie Curie of France, who were 
the cutting edge of what would become an international race in 
the prewar years to unravel the mystery of nuclear fission. 
Bergmann's colleagues in Berlin included Herman F. Mark, an 
Austrian who later became an eminent chemist and dean of the 
Brooklyn Polytechnic Institute (and whose son, Hans M., 
served as secretary of the Air Force in the Carter administra- 
tion).* "We were not theoreticians," recalled Mark, who during 

* Herman Mark was ninety-five years old when interviewed in 1990 at his son's 
home in Austin, Texas. Hans Mark, then chancellor of the University of Texas, was 
himself no stranger to the world of intelligence and nuclear weapons. As Air Force 
secretary, he also wore what is known in the government as the "black hat": he was 
head of the executive committee, or Ex-Com, of the National Reconnaissance Office 
(NRO), a most-secret unit that is responsible for the development, procurement, and 
targeting of America's intelligence satellites. As a nuclear physicist, Hans Mark had 


his career published twenty books and more than five hundred 
papers on polymer science. "We were interested in making 
things. The important thing for us was synthetics. First you 
have to make something nobody else has — and then you can use 
it." While in Berlin, Bergmann and Mark worked together and 
published joint papers on the chemical structure of rubber, 
paint, and adhesives. 

Bergmann's father was one of the most eminent rabbis in 
Berlin and a close friend of Chaim Weizmann, the Russian- 
Jewish biochemist and Zionist then living in England. In 1933, 
when a series of sweeping Nazi decrees made it impossible for 
Bergmann or any other Jew to continue in an academic job in 
Germany, Weizmann arranged for young Bergmann to join 
him on the faculty at Manchester University in England, 
where he continued his research on synthetics and his close 
association with those scientists racing to split the atom. Like 
Weizmann, Bergmann came to the attention of Frederick A. 
Lindemann, later Lord Cherwell, a German-born Oxford sci- 
entist who became Winston Churchill's chief science adviser in 
the years before World War II. 

Little is known of Bergmann's defense work for the British 
before the war; it is in those years that he first became involved 
with the defense of Palestine. One of the Weizmann biogra- 
phies reports that the Hagannah, the military arm of the Zionist 
movement in Palestine, asked Weizmann in 1936 for a chemist 
to help produce an effective high explosive for use in the under- 
ground war against the Arabs and the British. Dynamite was 
far too dangerous to handle in the climate of the Middle East. 
Weizmann assigned the mission to Bergmann, who got it done 
and then signed on as a member of the Hagannah's technical 
committee. In 1939, the biography adds, Bergmann traveled to 
Paris on behalf of the Hagannah and shared his findings with 
the French, whose army was then operating in North Africa. 

Bergmann left England shortly after Germany invaded Po- 
land in the fall of 1939. Weizmann had intervened once again 
and found him a job with old friends who owned a chemistry 

worked for twelve years beginning in 1955 for the Lawrence Livermore Laboratory in 
California, one of America's main nuclear weapons facilities. For four of those years he 
served as a division leader in experimental physics. 


laboratory in Philadelphia. It didn't work out, and another old 
friend from Germany, Herman Mark, came to his rescue: "He 
had no space. So we invited him to come to Brooklyn." Mark 
had been driven out of Europe in 1938 and ended up doing 
research for a Canadian paper company in Ontario. By 1940 he 
was running a laboratory at the Polytechnic Institute of Brook- 
lyn; two years later he became dean of faculty and turned the 
institute into a haven for Jewish refugees, including Chaim 
Weizmann. "The whole gang came to America," said Mark, 
who, when interviewed for this book, was the sole known sur- 
vivor of that period. 

With the defeat of Hitler, there was one final migration for 
Bergmann: to Palestine to help establish what would become 
the Weizmann Institute of Science at Rehovot, south of Tel 
Aviv. Israeli ambitions seemed unlimited. Oppenheimer and 
his colleagues in the Manhattan Project, including John von 
Neumann, the mathematician and early computer theoretician, 
were being wooed — unsuccessfully — by Weizmann as early as 
1947, and were repeatedly asked to spend time doing research in 

Bergmann was Weizmann's first choice to become director of 
the institute, but Weizmann's wife, Vera, successfully objected 
on the oldest of grounds: she was offended at Bergmann's long- 
standing affair with Hani, her husband's private secretary 
(whom Bergmann eventually married).** Bergmann instead 
was named head of the organic chemistry division. He could 
take solace, if needed, at the eminence of his colleagues. Amos 
Deshalit, who headed the physics division, subsequently was 
considered a quantum researcher in a class with Oppenheimer 

* Oppenheimer's personal papers, on file at the Library of Congress, show that he 
went to Israel in May 1958 to participate in ceremonies marking the opening of the 
Institute of Nuclear Science in Rehovot. He also took a military flight with Bergmann 
and Shimon Peres to visit the port city of Elat at the southern reach of the Negev, 
according to newspaper reports at the time. Israeli officials who worked in 1958 at 
Dimona, then in the early stages of construction, recall no visit then or in later years by 

** It was Bergmann's second missed opportunity to direct a Weizmann research 
institute. Weizmann had been instrumental in the 1930s in setting up Palestine's first 
research facility, the Daniel Sieff Institute. According to Shimon Peres, Weizmann 
approached Albert Einstein, then teaching at Princeton, and asked him to recommend 
one of his students to run the institute. Einstein instead suggested Bergmann, who 
didn't get the job for reasons not known. 


and Niels Bohr, the Danish Nobel Prize winner. Inorganic 
chemistry was directed by Aharon Katchalsky, later Katzir, 
who was a specialist in the electrolytic properties of chain mol- 
ecules and a pioneer researcher in the related field of muscle- 
powered robotics. (Like Bergmann, Katzir had a secret life: at 
his death in 1972, he was one of the driving forces in the then 
flourishing Israeli nuclear weapons program.) There was one 
final move for Bergmann, at Ben-Gurion's request, after Is- 
rael's Independence in 1948 — to the ministry of defense, where, 
under Shimon Peres, Bergmann established the nation's first 
institute for defense research. More than forty years later, 
Peres would tell an Israeli newspaper reporter that Bergmann, 
even in 1948, was constantly speaking about a missile capability 
for Israel. "I might be ready to tell the full truth about him in 
one hundred years, maybe," Peres added. "We worked thirteen 
years together, perhaps the best years of my life." 

Without Bergmann, insisted Herman Mark, there would have 
been no Israeli bomb: "He was in charge of every kind of nu- 
clear activity in Israel. He was the man who completely under- 
stood it [nuclear fission], and then he explained it to other 
people." Mark became a constant commuter between Brooklyn 
and Israel after World War II, serving on planning boards and 
as a scientific adviser to the fledgling Weizmann Institute. He 
remained close to Bergmann and shared his view of the inevita- 
bility of Israeli nuclear weapons research: "We were both of the 
same opinion — that eventually Israel has to be in full cogni- 
zance and knowledge of what happens in nuclear physics. 
Look, a new type of chemical reaction was discovered at Los 
Alamos. Whether it's desalination, a power plant, or a bomb 
makes no difference — it's still fission." 

Bergmann had made the same point in a 1966 interview — 
after he was forced out of government service — with an Israeli 
newspaper: "It's very important to understand that by develop- 
ing atomic energy for peaceful uses, you reach the nuclear op- 
tion. There are no two atomic energies." That interview, nine 
years before his death, was as close as Bergmann ever came to 
publicly discussing the bomb. "Bergmann was anxious, rightly 


so," said Mark, "that there shouldn't be too much talk. It was 
super-secret — just like the Manhattan Project." 

There was at least one early occasion, however, when Berg- 
mann couldn't resist sharing what he knew. Abraham Fein- 
berg, a wealthy New York businessman and ardent advocate of 
statehood for Israel, was one of Ben-Gurion's most important 
and trusted allies in the United States. By 1947, Feinberg was 
playing a major — and highly discreet — role in fund-raising and 
White House lobbying for Israel as well as for the Democratic 
Party. He would operate at the highest levels between Wash- 
ington and Jerusalem for the next two decades. Bergmann was 
in New York that fall and, as usual, joined Abe Feinberg and 
his family at Friday-night synagogue services; the group would 
later return to Feinberg's apartment. "Bergmann was always 
hungry," recalled Feinberg. "He loved my wife's scrambled 
eggs." One night over dinner, added Feinberg, "Bergmann's 
eyes lit up and he said, 'There's uranium in the desert.' " There 
was no question about the message — that a path was now 
cleared for Israel to develop the atomic bomb. Feinberg was 
astonished at such indiscreet talk: "I shushed him up." 

Israel's needs in the late 1940s and early 1950s coincided per- 
fectly with France's. Both nations were far from having any 
technical capacity to build a bomb, nor was there any internal 
consensus that a bomb was desirable. 

Ben-Gurion, Peres, and Bergmann would spend much of 
their careers engaged in a bitter fight inside the Israeli govern- 
ment over their dreams of a nuclear weapons program. Most 
senior members of the ruling Mapai (Israel Workers') Party 
viewed an Israeli bomb as suicidal, too expensive, and too remi- 
niscent of the horrors that had been inflicted on the Jews in 
World War II. 

The French debate revolved around the Cold War. France's 
high commissioner for nuclear matters, Frederic Joliot-Curie, a 
Nobel laureate who had done important research in nuclear 
physics before the war, was a member of the Communist Party 
who was opposed to a French role in NATO and any French 
link to nuclear weapons. In 1950, he was the first to sign the 
Stockholm Appeal, a Soviet-backed petition calling for a ban on 


all nuclear weapons. French scientists, despite extensive in- 
volvement in prewar nuclear fission research, had been ex- 
cluded from a major role in the American and British bomb 
programs of World War II, and Joliot-Curie's politics kept 
France isolated. Joliot-Curie was dismissed after signing the 
Stockholm Appeal, and he was eventually replaced by Pierre 
Guillaumat, who had served during the war with the French 
secret intelligence service, and Francis Perrin, a Joliot associate 
who in 1939 had been the first to publish a formula for calculat- 
ing the critical mass of uranium — the amount needed to sustain 
a chain reaction. The French plowed ahead with no help from 
the United States, which viewed France's Atomic Energy Com- 
mission as being riddled with Soviet agents. 

Perrin also was important to the Israeli connection. A social- 
ist who fled to England in 1940 at the fall of France, he became 
friendly with Bergmann — how the two met is not known — and 
traveled to Tel Aviv in 1949. It was after that visit that some 
Israeli scientists were permitted to attend Saclay, the newly set 
up French national atomic research center near Versailles, and 
participate in the construction of Saclay's small experimental 
reactor. It was a learning experience for the nuclear scientists 
of both countries. 

In an unpublished interview with an American graduate stu- 
dent in 1969, Bergmann spoke elliptically of the ambitions he 
shared with Ben-Gurion and Peres for the French-Israeli con- 
nection: "We felt that Israel . . . needed to collaborate with a 
country close to its own technical level. First it was important 
to train Israeli experts. Then we would decide exactly what 
sort of collaboration to seek and what kind of contribution 
could be made in a joint endeavor, considering Israel's capaci- 
ties and resources. Every effort was to be made to keep coopera- 
tion from being entirely one-directional." 

A critical decision for France, and thus Israel, came in 1951 
when, over the objections of Perrin, Guillaumat authorized the 
construction of a natural uranium-fueled reactor capable of 
producing, after chemical reprocessing, about twenty-two 
pounds of weapons-grade plutonium a year. The chain reaction 
would be moderated by graphite, a technique used by the 
United States and the Soviet Union in their huge plutonium- 


producing reactors. Surveyors had found large deposits of nat- 
ural uranium a few years earlier near Limoges, in central 
France, and that discovery made it easy for Guillaumat and 
Perrin to discard an alternative method for powering the reac- 
tor — using uranium that had been artificially enriched. En- 
riched fuel, if available at all, would have to be imported, since 
French technicians did not yet know how to enrich natural 
uranium. But relying on foreign suppliers — and inevitable in- 
ternational controls — would rob France of any chance to 
achieve its basic goal of atomic independence. "France," 
Charles de Gaulle wrote in his World War II memoirs, "cannot 
be France without greatness." The decision to produce weap- 
ons-grade plutonium would irrevocably propel France down 
the road to a nuclear bomb, as Guillaumat, Perrin, and the 
Israelis had to know — but the French public and its military 
leaders did not. 

Construction began the next year at Marcoule, in the south- 
ern Rhone Valley. Saint-Gobain Techniques Nouvelles (SGN), 
a large chemical company, subsequently was granted a contract 
to build a chemical reprocessing plant on the grounds at 
Marcoule. Such plants are the critical element in the making of 
a bomb. The natural uranium, once burned, or irradiated, in 
the reactor, breaks down into uranium, plutonium, and highly 
toxic wastes. The irradiated fuel needs to be transported, 
cooled, and then treated before the plutonium can be separated 
and purified. These steps can be accomplished only by remote 
control and in a specially built separate facility — the reproces- 
sing plant — containing elaborate and very expensive physical 
protection for the work force. 

Bergmann's men were able to contribute to all of this. There 
was renewed controversy inside Israel over the constantly ex- 
panding Israeli presence in France, but Ben-Gurion held firm. 
"In 1952," Shimon Peres told an Israeli interviewer, "I was 
alone as favoring the building of an Israeli nuclear option. I 
. . . felt terrible. Everyone was opposed — only Ben-Gurion 
said, 'You'll see, it will be okay.' There were people who went 
to Ben-Gurion and told him, 'Don't listen to Shimon; he and 
Bergmann are spinning tales. Israel won't be able to launch a 
project like this.' They said, 'Buy from the Canadians, from the 


Americans.' But I wanted the French, because Bergmann was 
well known among the community of French atomic scien- 

French officials reciprocated the Israeli trust: Israeli scien- 
tists were the only foreigners allowed access throughout the 
secret French nuclear complex at Marcoule. Israelis were said 
to be able to roam u at will." One obvious reason for the carte 
blanche was the sheer brilliance of the Israeli scientists and 
their expertise, even then, in computer technology. The French 
would remain dependent for the next decade — the first French 
nuclear test took place in i960 — on Israeli computer skills. A 
second reason for the Israeli presence at Marcoule was emo- 
tional: many French officials and scientists had served in the 
resistance and maintained intense feelings about the Holocaust. 
And many of France's leading nuclear scientists were Jewish 
and strong supporters of the new Jewish state, which was 
emerging — to the delight of these men — as France's closest ally 
in the Middle East. 

No Frenchman had stronger emotional ties to Israel than 
Bertrand Goldschmidt, a nuclear chemist who had served dur- 
ing World War II with the handful of French scientists who 
were permitted — despite being foreigners — to work directly 
with the Americans doing nuclear research. He had become an 
expert in the chemistry of plutonium and plutonium extrac- 
tion. He also had helped build an experimental reactor fueled 
with natural uranium and moderated by heavy water. As a 
first-rate chemist, he had been offered a chance to stay in the 
American bomb program after the war, but instead chose to 
return to France and join its Atomic Energy Commission. Af- 
ter intense negotiations, American security officials permitted 
him to do so, but refused to release him from his wartime 
pledge of secrecy. "It was tacitly understood," Goldschmidt 
subsequently wrote, "that we could use our knowledge to bene- 
fit France by giving information to our research teams, but 
without publishing and only to the extent necessary for the 
progress of our work. That was a reasonable compromise" — 
and one that was quickly disregarded. 

Goldschmidt was a Jew whose family had suffered, as had 
most Jewish families in Europe, during the war. His ties to 


Israel were heightened by marriage; his wife was a member of 
the eminent Rothschild banking family, whose contributions to 
Israel and Jewish causes were measured in the tens of millions 
of dollars. Goldschmidt and his wife had made the pilgrimage 
to Israel in the early 1950s and been taken by Ernst Bergmann 
for a memorable meeting with Ben-Gurion at his frame home 
in the Negev.* By then, Goldschmidt was serving as director of 
chemistry for France's Atomic Energy Commission; in the 
1970s he would become a widely respected French spokesman 
on nonproliferation and other international atomic energy is- 
sues. He also was among the few outsiders permitted to visit 
the completed reactor at Dimona in the 1960s — then a classic 
example of illicit proliferation. 

"We weren't really helping them [the Israelis]," Goldschmidt 
explained years later. u We were just letting them know what 
we knew — without knowing where it would lead. We didn't 
know ourselves how difficult it would be." The important fact 
to understand, he added, with some discomfort, is that "in the 
fifties and sixties having a nuclear weapon was considered a 
good thing — something to be congratulated for. Not like the 
stigma it is now." 

By 1953, *he scientific team at the Weizmann Institute had devel- 
oped the improved ion exchange mechanism for producing 
heavy water and a more efficient method for mining uranium.** 
Both concepts were sold to the French; the sales led to a formal 
agreement for cooperation in nuclear research that was signed 
by the two nations. Goldschmidt recalled that Bergmann him- 
self came to France to negotiate the mining sale with Pierre 
Guillaumat. He demanded 100 million francs for the new pro- 
cess, but refused to describe it fully in advance, claiming that if 

* "We had a long discussion about atomic energy," Goldschmidt recalls. "Ben-Gu- 
rion asked me how long would it take [for nuclear desalinization] to make the Negev 
desert bloom?" — a favorite Ben-Gurion question. "I said fifteen years. He started scold- 
ing me and said if we brought in all the Jewish scientists we could do it much faster." 

** Israel's much-bally hooed breakthrough in heavy- water production, which in- 
volved distillation rather than the previously used electrolysis method, was a disap- 
pointment, however. The procedure did produce heavy water far more easily and 
much more cheaply than other methods, as advertised, but also much more slowly. 


he did so it would lose half its value. There was an impasse. 
Finally, said Goldschmidt, "Guillaumat told me, 'I have the 
greatest respect for those people,' and we bargained." Berg- 
mann settled for sixty million francs. Israel would remain on a 
cash-and-carry basis with the French in its nuclear dealings. 


The French Connection 

In late 1953, a disillusioned Ben-Gurion, convinced that 
Israeli society was losing its pioneering, volunteerist spirit, re- 
tired to his desert kibbutz at Sdeh Boker, in the Negev, near 
the future site of Dimona. He believed he could revive that 
spirit and set an example by resettling in the desert with his 
wife. His political control over the Mapai Party remained total, 
however — like that of a Mafia don — and the government that 
was left behind was one of his creation. Ben-Gurion would be 
replaced by not one but two people, for he decreed that his 
jointly held positions of prime minister and defense minister 
be separated. Ben-Gurion then appointed Moshe Sharett as the 
new prime minister. No two men could have differed more in 
their approach to the Arab question. Sharett, who had lived in 
an Arab village as a child and who, unlike Ben-Gurion, spoke 
Arabic, believed that peace with the Arab world was possible, 
but only through military restraint and with the possible inter- 
vention of the United Nations. As prime minister, he would 
begin secret peace negotiations with Nasser. 

Before leaving office, Ben-Gurion also designated Pinhas 
Lavon, more hard-line than Sharett on the Arab question, as 
the new defense minister. His goal, obviously, was to ensure 
that Sharett's views would not go unchallenged. Ben-Gurion 
also arranged for another hard-liner, Moshe Dayan, to become 
the new army chief of staff. Shimon Peres would stay on the 
job as director general of the defense ministry: he was a known 
Ben-Gurion favorite. 

Ben-Gurion's concerns about Sharett did not extend to the 
nuclear question. Sharett, as his voluminous personal diaries — 
as yet unpublished in full in English — make clear, shared the 


Old Man's ambition for the "Enterprise," without sharing Ben- 
Gurion's confidence in Bergmann. In one typical entry, 
Sharett wrote off Bergmann "as a chemist sunk in research and 
teaching with no ability to oversee the 'problem' " — one of 
many synonyms for the bomb. Bergmann's lack of administra- 
tive skills, added Sharett, would "limit and disrupt the hori- 
zons of the 'Enterprise' and sabotage its development." 

How to handle the Arab question was the dominant issue, 
however, and over the next year there was inevitable tension as 
Dayan and Peres, in almost constant contact with Ben-Gurion 
at his kibbutz, sought to stifle Sharett's dovish policies and his 
secret talks with the Egyptians. Scandal broke in mid-1954 
when Egyptian authorities announced the arrest of an Israeli 
spy ring that had bombed and sabotaged American, British, 
and Egyptian targets earlier in the year in what became known 
as the Lavon Affair. The goal of the bombings had been to 
derail pending British and American negotiations — and possi- 
ble rapprochement — with the Nasser government; Egypt was 
to remain isolated from the Western powers. An internal Israeli 
investigation was unable to determine who had given the order 
for the sabotage activities, and Sharett, who had not known of 
the operation, accepted Lavon's resignation in January 1955. 
Ben-Gurion was recalled a few days later from retirement to 
replace Lavon as defense minister.* Sharett remained as prime 
minister, although there was little doubt about who would be 
running the government. 

The Old Man's immediate public mission was to restore the 
army's morale and the citizens' confidence in the government. 
He entered office, however, more convinced than ever that a 
policy of military reprisal was essential; any interference with 
defense planning, he warned Sharett in writing, would force 
him once again to resign and call for new elections. Six days 

* Lavon, one of the intellectual leaders of the Mapai Party, maintained that Dayan 
and other witnesses against him in the various internal Israeli inquiries had perjured 
themselves in an effort to shift the blame to him alone. He was exonerated by a cabinet 
committee inquiry seven years later. Sharett, in his diaries, made it clear that he was 
convinced that Dayan was involved in both the original unauthorized operations inside 
Egypt and the subsequent attempt to shift the blame to Lavon. Any involvement of 
Dayan, of course, inevitably raises the possibility that Ben-Gurion had personal knowl- 
edge of the operation and, in fact, had approved it. 


after taking office, on February 28, 1955, Ben-Gurion responded 
to a cross-border attack by Palestinian guerrillas, or fedayeen, by 
authorizing a large-scale retaliation against an Egyptian mili- 
tary camp at Gaza. The Israeli attack, which killed thirty-six 
Egyptians and Palestinians, was led by Lieutenant Colonel 
Ariel Sharon, whose reputation for skill and brutality already 
was well established. The Gaza attack escalated what had been 
a series of skirmishes into something close to guerrilla war; 
Arab casualties were four times greater than Sharett had been 
told to expect. The raid ended the secret contacts between 
Sharett and Nasser and resulted in an Egyptian decision to step 
up its fedayeen attacks from Gaza. The Israeli historian Avi 
Shlaim has written that Sharett viewed the subsequent in- 
creases in Gaza Strip border clashes as the "inevitable conse- 
quence" of the February 28 raid, while Ben-Gurion saw them 
"as a sign of growing Egyptian bellicosity which, if allowed to 
go unchallenged, would pose a threat to Israel's basic security." 

Nasser responded to the increased tension by turning to the 
Communist world for military aid. He traveled in April 1955 to 
the Bandung Conference of African and Asian nations and re- 
ceived a promise from Chou En-lai, the Chinese premier, for as 
many arms as Egypt could afford. In July, Soviet delegations 
arrived in Cairo to offer military aid. In September, Nasser 
announced that Egypt would receive the staggering total of 200 
modern Soviet bombers, 230 tanks, 200 troop carriers, and more 
than 500 artillery pieces. Soviet advisers also were promised. 

In Tel Aviv, there was dismay. Israel's third temple was in 
danger.* Ben-Gurion, still denied American support, turned 
anew to the French. The Israelis wanted more than guns. The 
French had their needs, too. 

In late 1954, the coalition government led by Pierre Mendes- 
France, one of fourteen coalitions that held office during the 
chaotic Fourth Republic, had granted authority for a nuclear 

* The first temple and Jewish state, as every Israeli schoolchild knows, was de- 
stroyed in 537 b.c. by the Babylonians. The second temple was destroyed by the Ro- 
mans in a.d. 70, although Jews continued to live in the area through the centuries. 
Modern Zionist resettlement of Palestine began in the 1880s, and Jews had become a 
political force in Palestine by 1917, when Britain, in the Balfour Declaration, pledged to 
establish in Palestine "a national home for the Jewish people," with safeguards for the 
other, i.e., Arab, inhabitants. 


weapons planning group to be formed inside the French 
Atomic Energy Commission. Senior officials of the ministry of 
defense thus were brought into nuclear planning for the first 
time. Many French military men had been skeptical of an inde- 
pendent nuclear deterrent, but that attitude was changed by 
France's disastrous defeat at the hands of Ho Chi Minh at 
Dienbienphu, North Vietnam, in 1954, and the subsequent col- 
lapse of French colonialism in the wars of liberation in North 
Africa. It was clear to many Frenchmen that France could not 
depend on its NATO allies to protect purely French interests. 
This was especially true in Algeria, where the bloody revolu- 
tion and French repression were turning the casbahs and 
deserts into a killing field. 

In January 1955, t ' ie French government fell again and a new 
socialist government headed by Guy Mollet assumed power. 
Mollet took a much harder line on the war in Algeria and those 
Arab leaders, such as Nasser, who supported the revolutionar- 
ies. Israel, which had been intensively waging guerrilla war 
against Egypt, was now widely seen as one of France's most 
dependable allies. Mollet agreed later in the year to begin se- 
cretly selling high-performance French bombers to Israel; the 
sales, arranged by Shimon Peres, were from one defense minis- 
try to another, with no diplomatic niceties and no involvement 
of the French or Israeli foreign ministries. Arms continued to 
flow from France to Israel for the next twelve years. 

In return, Israel agreed to begin sharing intelligence on the 
Middle East, the United States, and Europe with the French. 
The Israeli intelligence networks in North Africa were partic- 
ularly good, former Israeli officials recalled, because the Jews 
there tended to live and work as merchants and businessmen in 
the Arab quarters. Of special significance were the more than 
100,000 Jews in Algeria, many of them trapped by the violence 
and irrationality of both sides. Those Jews were encouraged by 
the Israeli government to provide intelligence on the leader- 
ship of the National Liberation Front and in other ways to 
cooperate with the French. 

It was inevitable that Bergmann and Peres would conclude 
that Israel now had enough leverage to seek French help for the 
Israeli bomb: would the Mollet government match the extraor- 


dinary Israeli support in Algeria and elsewhere by agreeing to 
construct a large reactor — and a chemical reprocessing plant — 
in Israel? The Israelis understood that no plutonium weapon 
could be made without a reprocessing plant, and they also un- 
derstood that the construction of the plant would be impossible 
without a French commitment. The French Atomic Energy 
Commission was scheduled to begin construction in mid-1955 
on its own chemical reprocessing plant at Marcoule, and Israeli 
scientists had been involved at every step along the way. 

Having the French say yes could, ironically, trigger a crisis 
inside the top ranks of the Israeli government. A French com- 
mitment would force Peres and Bergmann to inform the cabi- 
net that Israel was going to build a secret nuclear complex. 
There already were plenty of objections from those few who 
knew. Levi Eshkol, the finance minister, shared Ben-Gurion's 
belief in ein brera, but also was convinced that a nuclear-armed 
Israel would be financial madness. Eshkol would hold on to 
that view after becoming prime minister in 1963. There were 
concerns other than financial among the Israeli leadership. 
How could Israel keep the reactor secret? Was it moral for 
Israel, whose citizens had suffered so much from indiscrimi- 
nate slaughter, to have a weapon of mass destruction? What 
would the American government say? Would America con- 
tinue to be the land of deep pockets? 

The nuclear advocates got a huge break in September 1955. 
The Canadian government announced that it had agreed to 
build a heavy-water research reactor for the Indian govern- 
ment. The Canadian offer included no provision for interna- 
tional inspections, since no international agreement on nuclear 
safeguards had yet been promulgated. India promised to utilize 
the reactor only for "peaceful purposes." There was now inter- 
national precedent for an Israeli reactor. 

In late 1955, a new Israeli government was formed with Ben- 
Gurion once again serving as both defense minister and prime 
minister. Moshe Sharett, despite misgivings, stayed on as for- 
eign minister. National elections that summer had eroded the 
Mapai plurality in the Knesset and provided more evidence 
that the Israeli public was dissatisfied with the dovish policies 


sot Moshe Sharett.* An American attempt, authorized by Eisen- 
hower, to mediate a settlement between Nasser and Ben-Gu- 
rion failed early in 1956 when the Egyptian president refused to 
negotiate directly with Jerusalem and presented demands, as 
many Israelis thought, that he knew to be unacceptable. A few 
months later, the long-standing direct talks between Jerusalem 
and Washington also collapsed; there would be no American 
security agreement with Israel. On June 10, Ben-Gurion autho- 
rized General Moshe Dayan to open secret negotiations with 
Paris on a joint war against Egypt. In July, Nasser, as expected, 
nationalized the Suez Canal, bringing the outraged British gov- 
ernment into the secret planning for war. Shimon Peres was 
now shuttling between Paris and Tel Aviv on behalf of Ben- 
Gurion; the line between public policy and personal diplomacy 
was eroding daily, to the muffled protests of many inside each 

* Pocketbook politics played a significant role in these politically complicated years, 
along with the always important Arab question. Within the labor movement there 
were three main parties, the dominant one Mapai, the most centrist and pragmatic 
faction of Israel's socialist-Zionist movement. Achdut Avodah, the Unity of Labor, was 
domestically more socialistic than Mapai, and more hawkish and nationalistic in for- 
eign policy. Mapam, the United Workers' Party, was far more dovish in foreign policy, 
and even opposed the creation of Israel in 1948 as an exclusively Jewish state; it urged, 
instead, a secular bi-national Jewish and Palestinian state. (The three main elements of 
the labor movement joined forces in the late 1960s to create the Labor Party.) Ben- 
Gurion's Mapai Party had lost seats in the 1955 election to the right-wing Herut Party 
in what amounted to a voter backlash by new immigrants, resentful of their treatment 
by the Mapai leadership. The General Zionists, conservative on economic matters and 
moderate on defense and military issues, lost seats. (The free-market General Zionists 
would merge in 1966 with the Herut Party, Menachem Begin's populist-conservative 
party, to form the Gahal Party. Gahal, in turn, merged in 1973 — after relentless pres- 
sure from newly retired General Ariel Sharon — with three right-wing factions to cre- 
ate the Likud Party, which took office in 1977 — ending twenty-nine years of Labor 
control of the government.) The most hawkish political factions in the mid-1950s, in 
terms of military policy toward the Arabs, were the group led by Moshe Dayan and 
Shimon Peres, Mapai; Achdut Avodah, led by Yisrael Galili and former 1948 War of 
Independence hero Yigal Allon; and Herut. Both groups were opposed by moderate 
members of the Mapai Party such as Moshe Sharett, Levi Eshkol, Abba Eban, and 
Pinhas Sapir. Even among the hawks there were divisions, with Begin and his Herut 
Party followers believing the primary task of Israel to be the redemption of biblical 
lands in order to reestablish Greater, or Eretz, Israel. Ben-Gurion, Dayan, Peres, and 
Galili (who played a major and secret role in future governments) were hawks of 
Realpolitik considerations — a belief in force as a necessary ingredient of international 
relations. They were thus adamantly opposed to the fundamentalist views of Begin and 
his Herut Party. In essence, the Mapai Party's loss of seats in the 1955 elections reflected 
economic worries as well as a move within the Labor faction away from the dovish 
policies of Sharett and toward the more hawkish views of Ben-Gurion, Dayan, Peres, 
and Allon. 


That summer Moshe Sharett quietly resigned as foreign min- 
ister. He had sought an open debate on Israel's foreign policy 
in front of Mapai Party members, but Ben-Gurion fought it off 
by threatening to resign. The Israeli public would not learn of 
the deep divisions at the top of its government until the publi- 
cation of Sharett's personal diaries in 1980. Sharett's replace- 
ment was Golda Meir, the minister of labor, whose main 
qualification, Ben-Gurion would later acknowledge, was her 
ignorance of international affairs. Meir endorsed Ben-Gurion's 
argument for preventive war; nonetheless, her ministry would 
be repeatedly bypassed by Ben-Gurion, Peres, Dayan, and 
Ernst David Bergmann as Israel broadened its involvement 
with France. 

In mid-September, with the Suez War against Egypt six 
weeks away and with no international protest over the Cana- 
dian reactor sale, Ben-Gurion decided it was time to formally 
seek French help for the Israeli bomb. Israeli nuclear scientists 
working at Saclay had been involved since 1949 in planning and 
constructing the French experimental reactor, known as EL 2, 
which was powered by natural uranium and moderated by 
heavy water. Building a similar reactor in Israel was eminently 
feasible. Uranium was indigenous to Israel, and there was some 
heavy water available locally in Israel; more heavy water, if 
needed, as seemed likely, could be supplied by the French or 
illicitly purchased from Norway or the United States, then the 
world's largest producers. Ben-Gurion already had picked out a 
location for the Israeli reactor — in the basement of an old de- 
serted winery at Rishon LeZion, a few miles from the 
Weizmann Institute. 

It was decided to send Shimon Peres with Ernst Bergmann 
to Paris. Bertrand Goldschmidt vividly recalled a subsequent 
meeting of the French Atomic Energy Commission: "They 
came to me and said they'd like to buy a heavy-water research 
reactor similar to the one the Canadians were building in India. 
They said that when the Americans will realize we have a nu- 
clear capacity, they will give us the guarantee of survival. All of 
this was decided before the Suez affair." 

Four days later, on September 17, Bergmann and Peres had 
dinner with Francis Perrin and Pierre Guillaumat at the home 


of Jacob Tzur, the Israeli ambassador to France. Once again 
France was asked to provide a reactor. "We thought the Israeli 
bomb was aimed against the Americans," Perrin later ex- 
plained. "Not to launch it against America but to say, 'If you 
don't want to help us in a critical situation we will require you 
to help us. Otherwise we will use our nuclear bombs.' " 

Goldschmidt remained convinced years later that the basic 
decision to help Israel get the bomb was made during those two 
meetings in mid-September. There is no written record of the 
meetings, and it is impossible to determine what happened 
when. What is clear, nonetheless, is that Israel sought French 
help for the bomb — and got it — at least six weeks before the 
shooting started in the Suez War. 

Many Israelis viewed the conduct of their partners in the Suez 
War as a betrayal. Israel's immediate tactical goal in the war 
was to destroy the Egyptian Army and its ability to support 
and train the growing Palestinian fedayeen movement. The stra- 
tegic goal was far more ambitious: to destroy Nasser's ability to 
achieve Arab unity. Keeping the Arab world in disarray has 
always been a focal point of Israeli strategy, and Nasser, with 
his calls for Pan-Arabism — Egyptian hegemony, in Israeli eyes 
— was a serious national security threat. The Israelis further 
believed that a humiliating Egyptian defeat in the Suez War 
inevitably would lead to Nasser's overthrow. 

The battle plan called for Israel to initiate the attack on Oc- 
tober 29, sending paratroopers into the Sinai and destroying 
the ability of Egypt to operate from Gaza. France and Britain 
would then demand that both sides halt hostilities and with- 
draw ten miles from the Suez Canal, creating a buffer zone. 
When the Egyptians, who owned the canal, refused to do so — a 
refusal that was inevitable — France and England would launch 
bombing and airborne assaults on November 6 to neutralize 
and occupy the canal. 

The battle plan went much better than scheduled. Israel 
stormed through the Egyptian Army and had captured all of 
the Sinai by November 4. There was nothing, other than a 
United Nations call for a cease-fire, to stop the Israeli Army 
from crossing the Suez and taking Cairo. Guy Mollet began 


urging Anthony Eden, Britain's prime minister, to move up 
the date of their combined assault, but Eden, made anxious by 
the fast pace of the Israeli Army and the United Nations cease- 
fire call, refused. The British and French finally landed, as pre- 
arranged, on the morning of November 6 at Port Said, only to 
stop again when the Soviet Union, then involved in the bloody 
suppression of the Hungarian revolution, issued what was per- 
ceived in Israel to be a nuclear ultimatum in separate notes to 
Ben-Gurion, Mollet, and Eden. 

The Soviet telegram to Ben-Gurion accused Israel of "crimi- 
nally and irresponsibly playing with the fate of peace, with the 
fate of its own people. It is sowing a hatred for the state of 
Israel among the people of the east such as cannot but make 
itself felt with regard to the future of Israel and which ptits in 
jeopardy the very existence of Israel as a State." A separate 
note signed by Prime Minister Nikolai Bulganin explicitly 
warned Ben-Gurion that the Soviet Union was capable of at- 
tacking with "remote-controlled vehicles." There also was a 
threat to send troops as "volunteers" into the Middle East. 

Anthony Eden, already under extreme pressure to pull out 
of the war from the Eisenhower administration as well as from 
the opposition Labor Party at home, was the first to break 
ranks, informing Paris that he had ordered his troops to cease 
firing. The French followed. Israel, deserted by its two allies, 
was forced a few days later to agree to a cease-fire and the 
eventual deployment of the United Nations' peacekeeping 
force in the Sinai. 

The Israelis were disappointed by the French and enraged 
by Eisenhower, who, so Ben-Gurion had believed, would never 
turn away from supporting Israel in the weeks before the presi- 
dential elections. There was a widespread belief in Israel and in 
France that the United States, considered to be Israel's super- 
power friend, had backed down in the face of the Soviet nu- 
clear threat.* For Ben-Gurion, the lesson was clear: the Jewish 
community in America was unable to save Israel. 

* Eisenhower's refusal to back the attack on Egypt had nothing to do with the 
Bulganin threat, which was analyzed at an all-night meeting at CIA headquarters and 
subsequently discounted as a bluff. The Suez War was viewed by Washington not as an 
anti-Soviet or anti-Communist move, but as a last-ditch attempt by two powers — 


"You Americans screwed us," one former Israeli government 
official said, recalling his feelings at the time. "If you hadn't 
intervened, Nasser would have been toppled and the arms race 
in the Middle East would have been delayed. Israel would have 
kept its military and technological edge. Instead, here comes 
the golf player Ike, dumb as can be, saying in the name of 
humanity and evenhandedness that 'we won't allow colonial 
powers to play their role.' He doesn't realize that Nasser's rein- 
forced and Israel's credibility is being set back." 

The Israeli, who has firsthand knowledge of his govern- 
ment's nuclear weapons program, added bitterly: "We got the 
message. We can still remember the smell of Auschwitz and 
Treblinka. Next time we'll take all of you with us." 

On November 6, after learning of the French and British 
cease-fire, Ben-Gurion sent Peres, accompanied by Golda Meir, 
to Paris. Mollet had fought against the cease-fire but, when 
faced with Britain's insistence on withdrawal, felt he had no 
choice but to go along. Even worse, Mollet was now going to 
have to persuade Ben-Gurion to accept a United Nations 
peacekeeping role in the Sinai. Israel would have to withdraw 
from the land for which its paratroopers had fought and died. 

Peres later told a biographer of his feelings toward Eisen- 
hower at the time: ". . . [A] man with healthy teeth, beautiful 
eyes and a warm smile who hadn't the vaguest notion what he 
was talking about. And what he did know, he couldn't express 
properly. There was no connection between one sentence and 

England and France — to stanch their continuing international decline. Eisenhower 
and his senior aides believed that Nasser and other Third World leaders much pre- 
ferred alliances with the United States rather than with the Soviets, and thus were 
more likely to become pro-American if the administration disassociated itself from the 
Middle East colonialism of England and France. The President was distressed at the 
two American allies for continuing to practice what he viewed as their colonialistic 
policies; he also resented the obvious Israeli belief that he would pander to the Ameri- 
can Jewish vote by endorsing the Suez War. (Eisenhower, as the French and British 
knew only too well, was perfectly prepared to act as a colonialist himself— as he did in 
ordering the CIA to help overthrow governments in Iran in 1953 and Guatemala in 1954 
— to protect what he believed to be vital American interests.) CIA officials recalled 
another point of White House concern in 1956: Eisenhower's realization from the secret 
U-2 overflights — the first U-2 spy mission had taken place a few months earlier — that 
Israel had purchased sixty Mystere attack aircraft from the French, and not the twenty- 
four they had publicly announced. No public mention was made of the larger-than- 
reported Israeli purchase — the new aircraft were seen on runways — since the existence 
of U-2 overflights was then the government's biggest national security secret. 


the next. The only question he could answer well was 'How 
are you?' " 

One American defense analyst, in a conversation many years 
later about Israel's drive for the nuclear option after Suez, 
posed this rhetorical query and answer: "What is the lesson the 
United States draws from the Suez Crisis? 

"It is terribly dangerous to stop Israel from doing what it 
thinks is essential to its national security." 

Israel's unhappiness with Eisenhower was matched by Guy 
Mollet's sense of guilt and shame at France's failure to carry 
out commitments made to his fellow socialists in Israel. There 
was an obvious trade-off: Ben-Gurion agreed to withdraw his 
troops from the Sinai and accept a United Nations peacekeep- 
ing role in return for France's help in building a nuclear reac- 
tor and chemical reprocessing plant. Israel was no longer 
interested in an experimental reactor, such as at Saclay, but in 
the real thing — a reactor patterned after Marcoule. Mollet, ob- 
sessed with the consequences of France's failure, was quoted as 
telling an aide at the time of meetings with Peres and Meir: "I 
owe the bomb to them. I owe the bomb to them." The deal was 
struck, although it would be nearly a year before Peres would 
conclude the final negotiations.* The formal agreement be- 
tween France and Israel has never been made public. 

Mollet also formally cleared the way later in 1956 for the 
French nuclear weapons program by establishing a committee 
on the military use of atomic energy, to be led by the army 
chief of staff. Israeli scientists were on hand as observers when 
the first French nuclear test took place in i960. 

Over the next few years, as weapons-grade plutonium began 
rolling out of Marcoule, the French strategic goal would incor- 

* A major complication for Peres in working out the official government-to-govern- 
ment agreement was the continuing collapse of the French governments. Guy Mollet's 
government fell in mid-1957 anc ^ was replaced by one led by Maurice Bourges-Mau- 
noury. There were last-minute qualms about the Israeli reactor expressed by Christian 
Pineau, the new foreign minister. Peres would later tell a biographer that he had 
overcome Pineau's doubts by insisting that the reactor — already understood by engi- 
neers and officials throughout the French nuclear bureaucracy to be for a bomb — 
would be utilized only for "research and development." Pineau's meeting with Peres 
and his signed authorization for the reactor came in late September 1957, precisely at 
the time that the Bourges-Maunoury administration — that is, Pineau's government — 
was being voted out of office by the French National Assembly. In essence, the formal 
authorization for Dimona was signed by an official who was already out of office. 


porate the lesson learned in Suez: avoid reliance on the United 
States — and the NATO allies. The nuclear tests in the South 
Pacific, although marred by misfires, enabled France to develop 
its nuclear deterrent, the force defrappe, by the mid-1960s, with 
ambitions — not reached until the 1980s — of independently 
targeting the Soviet Union with intercontinental missiles. 
Charles de Gaulle would stun Washington and its allies by pull- 
ing France out of NATO in 1966. The intellectual spokesman 
for the French nuclear program was a retired general named 
Pierre Gallois, whose argument, as eventually published, came 
down to this: "When two nations are armed with nuclear 
weapons, even if they are unequally armed, the status quo is 
unavoidable." The Soviets would conclude, so Gallois's reason- 
ing went, that there was no military target in Paris or any- 
where in France that was worth the risk of having one nuclear 
bomb falling on Moscow. A nuclear-armed France would no 
longer need to wonder, as did all of Europe, whether the 
United States would come to its defense — and risk a Soviet 
retaliation — in a nuclear crisis. 

Gallois was taken very seriously by the Israelis, and France's 
force defrappe became the role model for Israel's strategic plan- 
ning — and its ultimate decision not to count on the American 
nuclear umbrella. Israel would complement its new reactor 
with a major research effort to design and manufacture long- 
range missiles capable of targeting the Middle East and, even- 
tually, the Soviet Union. The reactor at Dimona was just the 
beginning for Ernst Bergmann; he would now have to begin 
putting together a nuclear arsenal. 

Herman Mark explained years later why Ben-Gurion had 
picked the right man: "Bergmann was one of the few scientists 
who saw the lamp and knew how to make a light bulb. He 
understood that different types of activity would be necessary. 
The first part is to prepare new and unknown materials. Then 
you make them in ample quantities and store them. Finally 
there's delivery — how to put it somewhere." 

Bergmann's role in developing Israel's nuclear arsenal re- 
mains a state secret today. In the years after his death, as the 
Israeli nuclear arsenal became fixed, he became a virtual 
nonperson, a victim of stringent Israeli security and the self- 


censorship that such security involves. For example, in a book 
he wrote that was published in the United States in 1979, 
Shimon Peres eulogized Bergmann, with whom he worked 
closely for thirteen years, as one of the seven founders of the 
State of Israel. Peres, of course, did not mention nuclear weap- 
ons, but he did report that Chaim Weizmann considered Berg- 
mann to be "a future candidate for the presidency" of Israel. 
And yet Bergmann is not even cited once in a biography of 
Peres published in 1982 and written by Matti Golan, a former 
government official who had access to Peres's papers; nor is he 
mentioned in the English edition of Michael Bar-Zohar's defin- 
itive biography of Ben-Gurion. 

By the spring of 1957 it was clear that the old winery at Richon- 
el-Zion wouldn't do and a new site was needed for the larger 
reactor, known then only as EL 102. It wasn't difficult for Peres 
to convince Ben-Gurion to locate it at Dimona, near the an- 
cient city of Beersheba in his beloved Negev. Money was trans- 
ferred directly to Paris from the prime minister's account and 
Saint-Gobain, the French chemical firm, then two years away 
from completing the reprocessing plant at Marcoule, was se- 
lected to build the Israeli reprocessing facility — underground. 
As they began work, Saint-Gobain's engineers were given ac- 
cess to the initial construction plans for the reactor, and were 
stunned by what they learned. The French-Israeli agreement 
called for the plant to be capable at its peak of producing 24 
million watts (twenty-four megawatts) of thermal power, but 
its cooling ducts, waste facilities, and other specifications sug- 
gested that the plant would operate at two to three times that 
capacity.* If so, it could produce more plutonium than the re- 

* The reactor at Dimona did not produce any electrical power; its output is mea- 
sured therefore in terms of thermal power. It takes three megawatts of thermal power 
to produce one megawatt of electrical power; Dimona's electrical power output thus 
would be eight megawatts. The average electricity-producing nuclear power station 
operates at one thousand megawatts of electrical power (or three thousand megawatts 
of thermal power). The first U.S. weapons-grade plutonium plants, built during and 
after World War II, operated at about 250 megawatts. Nuclear scientists have deter- 
mined that one megawatt-day of production (that is, energy output) will produce one 
gram of plutonium. Dimona's reported output of twenty-four megawatts would pro- 
duce, if the reactor were operating 80 percent of the time, about seven kilograms of 
enriched plutonium per year, enough for two low-yield weapons. 


actor at Marcoule — more than twenty-two kilograms a year, 
enough for four nuclear bombs with the explosive force of 
those dropped at Hiroshima and Nagasaki. 

Ground-breaking for the EL 102 reactor took place in early 
1958. Over the next few years, thousands of tons of imported 
machinery and hundreds of imported technicians, engineers, 
wives, children, mistresses, and cars turned a quiet corner of 
the Negev desert into a French boom town. Nothing compara- 
ble — or as secret — had been created since Los Alamos. 


First Knowledge 

General Dwight D. Eisenhower's reliance on aerial 
photography as Allied Commander in Chief in World War II 
was reaffirmed by the exhaustive postwar bombing surveys of 
Germany and Japan, which concluded that as much as 80 per- 
cent of the most useful intelligence had come from overhead 
reconnaissance. Eisenhower came into the presidency in 1953 
concerned about the lack of aerial intelligence on the Soviet 
Union and ordered the CIA to do something about it. A Photo- 
graphic Intelligence Division was promptly set up, and CIA 
officials selected a University of Chicago graduate named Ar- 
thur C. Lundahl to direct it. Lundahl had analyzed reconnais- 
sance photos for the Navy during the war and stayed in the 
business afterward. One of his first moves was to entice Dino 
A. Brugioni, then compiling dossiers on Soviet industry for the 
CIA, to join his staff. Brugioni was another World War II vet- 
eran who had served as an aerial photographer and radio and 
radar specialist in lead bombers with the Twelfth Air Force in 
Italy. He had been recruited by the CIA in 1948, the year after 
it was established; like Lundahl, Brugioni was very good at 
what he was doing. The two men would remain colleagues and 
close friends for the next forty years. 

Eisenhower's next major step was to authorize a daring re- 
connaissance program — primarily targeted at the Soviet Union 
— and assign the development of the revolutionary airplane 
that would make it work jointly to the CIA and the Air Force. 
The aircraft, built under cover by the Lockheed Aircraft Com- 
pany in Burbank, California, and known as the U-2, would be 
able to fly and glide for almost eleven hours — covering more 
than five thousand miles — at heights greater than 65,000 feet, 


while utilizing only one thousand gallons of fuel. Special 
lenses, cameras, and thin film were developed, enabling the spy 
plane to photograph a path from Moscow to Tashkent, south- 
east of the Ural Sea, in one take. The U-2 went operational 
from a secret base in West Germany on July 4, 1956. Its initial 
targets: Soviet long-range bomber bases and Leningrad. Mos- 
cow was overflown on the next day, and dramatic photographs 
— code-named chess — of the Kremlin and the Winter Garden 
were later shown to the President and his advisers. A second 
U-2 base was authorized in Turkey; later there would be more 
bases in Pakistan and Norway. 

It was a spectacular asset: Soviet sites were photographed, 
mapped, and targeted, all within a few days, by American mis- 
siles and bombers from the Strategic Air Command. There 
was, however, an equally essential mission in those first years: 
to locate and photograph the industrial elements of the Soviet 
nuclear program. Where were the reactors, the heavy-water- 
production facilities, and the uranium- and plutonium-process- 
ing plants? Where were the Soviets machine-tooling the 
nuclear warheads and assembling the actual weapons?* 

By the mid-1950s, it was clear that Soviet technology, to 
American dismay, had done a brilliant job of catching up in the 
nuclear arms race. By August 1949, four years after Hiroshima 
and Nagasaki, the Soviets had managed to explode their first 
atomic bomb, using plutonium. That first bomb, like its Ameri- 
can predecessor, was the most basic in the atomic arsenal — a 
fission weapon. Such weapons consist of a small core of fissile 
material surrounded by high explosives. The explosives are 
triggered inward in a precise sequence (measured in nanosec- 
onds), suddenly and intensely compressing, or imploding, the 
core. The fissile material goes "supercritical" and begins dis- 
charging neutrons at a much faster rate than they can escape 

* American intelligence had been unable to locate all the Soviet nuclear facilities in 
the early 1950s, before the U-2 went operational, and the Pentagon's nuclear war plan- 
ners had to emphasize Soviet airbases and missile fields in their primary targeting. The 
1954 war plan of the Strategic Air Command (SAC), for example, called for as many as 
735 bombers to hit the Soviets in a single massive nuclear blow. Despite the tonnage, 
SAC could not guarantee that the Soviets' nuclear retaliatory capacity would be de- 
stroyed, leaving American cities open to retaliation. 


from the core. The sudden release of energy produces the vio- 
lent explosion. 

Well before the end of the war, Edward Teller and other 
American nuclear weapons designers understood that a far 
more powerful nuclear device, with fission as merely a first 
step, was theoretically possible. The new weapon, developed 
under the code name of "Super," was the hydrogen bomb, 
known to today's physicists as a fusion device. There were two 
central problems in the development of a high-yield hydrogen 
bomb: how to ignite the fusion material and how to make it 
burn efficiently. After much trial and error, scientists at Los 
Alamos developed a two-stage device, with two separate com- 
ponents inside a single warhead case. A fission bomb would be 
triggered (the first stage) inside the warhead. Much of the radi- 
ation from the fission device would be contained in the war- 
head case and compress and ignite a special thermonuclear fuel 
in the separate compartment (the second step). Deuterium, a 
hydrogen isotope twice the weight of hydrogen, or lithium 
deuteride could be used as the thermonuclear fuel. Deuterium 
is the main fuel of the sun, and is burned there at temperatures 
of 18 to 36 million degrees Fahrenheit. American physicists con- 
ducted experiments and came to understand, with appropriate 
awe, that a thermonuclear fuel, once ignited by fission inside a 
hydrogen bomb, would burn at a speed, temperature, and pres- 
sure greater than it burned at in the center of the sun. A key to 
the hydrogen bomb was the initial triggering of a fission de- 
vice, for only fission was capable of generating the heat and, as 
the scientists later came to understand, the radiation needed to 
burn the thermonuclear fuel. The thermonuclear device, when 
successfully tested in 1952 at Eniwetok, an atoll in the western 
Pacific, produced a crater 6,240 feet in diameter — more than a 
mile — and 164 feet deep. It was 650 times as powerful as the 
primitive device dropped at Hiroshima. The Los Alamos team 
later determined that the fusion of deuterium and tritium, an- 
other heavy hydrogen isotope that is a by-product of lithium, 
could produce a thermonuclear explosion of fifteen megatons — 
that is, one thousand times greater than the Hiroshima bomb. 

The Soviets, at one point known to be at least three years 
behind the American thermonuclear bomb program, moved 


ahead rapidly in the science of making doomsday weapons. 
The first Soviet two-stage hydrogen bomb was successfully 
tested in 1955, and six years later Soviet scientists detonated the 
largest known hydrogen bomb, with an explosive force of fifty- 
eight megatons. At its height in 1988, the Soviet nuclear stock- 
pile totaled an estimated 33,000 warheads, slightly more than 
the United States maintained in 1967, its peak year. 

In the beginning, everything was secret — even the existence of 
the CIA as well as its Photographic Intelligence Division. 

The first U-2 flights over the Soviet Union had provided dra- 
matic evidence that the Soviets were not nearly as advanced in 
conventional arms as the Pentagon had assumed. There was no 
"bomber gap" or "missile gap." These revelations were of the 
utmost importance and were immediately presented to Presi- 
dent Eisenhower himself, as well as to other top officials. Lun- 
dahl, as head of the U-2 intelligence unit, soon found himself 
becoming the American government's most listened-to briefing 
officer. "I was a courier on horseback," he recalled. "I'd spend 
my nights soaking up the lore and then gallop around Washing- 
ton in the morning."* The man in charge of providing him 
with information gained from the U-2 flights was Brugioni. 

The United States also was keeping its eyes on the Israeli 
desert. Eisenhower and the men around him, including John 
Foster Dulles, the secretary of state, and his brother Allen, the 
CIA director, had been infuriated by Israel's attempt to mask 
the extent of its military buildup prior to the 1956 Suez inva- 
sion. The administration's truth-teller continued to be the U-2, 
whose pilots, including Gary Francis Powers, later to be shot 
down, were usually assigned to overfly the Soviet Union. But 
there were other standing U-2 targets in sensitive areas and 

* Lundahl briefed President John F. Kennedy in the Oval Office in October 1962, 
after a U-2 overflight produced evidence of Soviet missiles in Cuba. He recalled stand- 
ing behind the President, who was studying the enlarged photos — which are essen- 
tially meaningless to a layperson — with a magnifying glass: "I showed him the various 
pieces of equipment that supported the medium-range missiles, about ten items in all. 
He listened to all that and was obviously unsure. He looked up from the U-2 photos, 
turned in his chair and looked me straight in the eye, and said, 'Are you sure of all 
this?* I replied, 'Mr. President, I am as sure of this as a photo interpreter can be sure of 
anything and I think you might agree that we have not misled you on the many other 
subjects we have reported to you.' " The Cuban missile crisis had begun. 


especially in moments of crisis — and that description fit the 
Middle East in 1958. Egypt and Syria had merged early in the 
year to form the United Arab Republic, and the Arab world 
was immediately thrown into political turmoil. Muslim opposi- 
tion, sparked by Egypt and Syria, led to violence in pro- West- 
ern Lebanon, where American marines waded ashore in July to 
protect the regime of President Camille Chamoun. The Iraqi 
monarchy, also pro- Western, was overthrown in a bloody coup 
d'etat and replaced by a military dictator, Abdel Karim Qas- 

Gary Powers and his colleagues, who had continued inter- 
mittently to overfly the Middle East, were now steadily back at 
work in the area. The CIA's photo interpreters were suddenly 
seeing a lot of activity at an Israeli Air Force practice bombing 
range south of Beersheba, an old Bedouin camel-trading center. 

Photo interpretation was still a fledgling science in 1958, a 
hands-on business. The developed film from the U-2 missions 
was rushed to the CIA's Photographic Intelligence Division, 
printed, analyzed, mounted on boards if necessary, cleared 
with Allen Dulles, and then immediately taken to the White 
House. Eisenhower remained an avid consumer until the last 
days of his presidency, and access to the photographs and brief- 
ings often was limited to the President and his immediate aides. 
Secrecy was paramount, although the Soviet Union eventually 
learned of the U-2 operations and began to complain bitterly, in 
private, about the American violations of its airspace.* 

* It was widely known that the Soviets were able to track a U-2 flight by radar once 
it passed over a border point. Much more disturbing to Washington was evidence that 
the Soviets were aware in advance of the take-off time for each mission. The National 
Security Agency, responsible for monitoring Soviet signals intelligence, reported — 
precisely when could not be learned — that the Soviet military and civilian aviation 
authorities had established a pattern of abruptly grounding all air traffic before a U-2 
flight was scheduled to depart. The elimination of all airplane traffic, of course, made it 
much easier for the Soviet radar system to plot the U-2 flight paths, and thus provided 
more time for the intended targets of the U-2 cameras to take countermeasures. How 
did the Soviets know the approximate schedule of U-2 activity? The mystery was solved 
early in the U-2 program by a group of Air Force communications technicians at Kelly 
Field in Texas — none of whom had any knowledge of the U-2 operation or any clear- 
ance for such knowledge. The Air Force analysts were able to deduce that a special 
intelligence operation was in existence as well as predict each flight simply by monitor- 
ing the extensive and poorly masked preflight communications between Washington 
and the U-2 airfields. The U-2 communications system did not change, and, one of the 
never-ending ironies of the intelligence world, the high-level American intelligence 
officer who brought the evidence of Soviet awareness to the attention of the U-2 plan- 


There also was a continuing and essential need for close co- 
ordination between exotic groups such as America's nuclear 
planners and the men authorizing U-2 operations. Plutonium 
and tritium, for example, occur in nature only in minute 
amounts and thus must be manufactured by irradiating lithium 
in a nuclear reactor. Among the inevitable by-products of the 
manufacturing process are radioactive gases, which are vented 
into the atmosphere. The analysts of the early U-2 photography 
learned to look for huge or distinctive chimneys, or "smoke- 
stacks," as the photo interpreters called them, all of which were 
studied intently to see if they were linked to a nuclear weapons 

It was Brugioni who recalled seeing the first signs of what 
would become the Israeli nuclear reactor. "Israel had a bomb- 
ing range in the Negev, and we'd watch it," Brugioni said. "It 
was a military training spot — where they'd stage exercises." 
One clue, not immediately understood, was the fencing off of a 
large, barren area a dozen or so miles outside the small desert 
town of Dimona. Brugioni and the photo interpreters assumed 
that the Israelis were setting up an ammunition-testing site. A 
new road from Beersheba, twenty-five miles to the north, was 
observed, leading directly to the fenced area. Construction 
workers and heavy machinery suddenly showed up. The site 
was no longer just another point of reference amid the thou- 
sands of feet of U-2 negatives flowing into CIA headquarters. 
The subterranean digging began in early 1958; soon afterward, 
cement began to pour into heavy foundations. Brugioni and his 
colleagues had studied and visited nuclear weapons reactors in 
the United States and knew something unusual was going on: 
"We spotted it right away. What the hell was that big of a plant, 
with reinforced concrete, doing there in the middle of the des- 

The deep digging was another major clue. "After the '56 
war," Brugioni explained, "it was all sub rosa in Israel. But 
man builds by patterns. For example, you can draw a circle 

ners was accused of a security violation. The incident reinforces a basic rule of the 
intelligence community: never bring information that is not wanted — such as word of 
an Israeli bomb — to the attention of higher-ups. 


twenty-five miles in diameter in most areas of the world and 
understand how man spends his life by studying that circle. 
You see cattle grazing, hog and poultry pens, and conclude that 
people eat meat. You can also spot industries, schools, churches, 
homes, etc., by what we call their 'signatures.' The military are 
even more patterned. Whenever you build something nuclear 
you build it thick and deep. They were pouring a hell of a lot of 
concrete. We knew they were going deep." 

The Eisenhower administration was sympathetic to Israel's 
precarious international position in 1958, Brugioni recalled: 
"The United Arab Republic was seen as a great threat. There 
was a fear that Nasser would get together [with the Arab 
world] and they'd take Israel. It'd have been a real coup if Nas- 
ser had taken Lebanon in '58." Eisenhower secretly authorized 
the U.S. Air Force to provide fighter pilot training and courses 
in aerial reconnaissance and photo interpretation to the Israe- 
lis. Some of the Americans operated under cover: "The attitude 
was help them [Israel] out — wink, but don't get caught." 

There was no way that Lundahl and Brugioni could wink at 
the imminent construction of a secret nuclear reactor. They 
and their colleagues in the U-2 shop believed strongly in Is- 
rael's right to exist, but were equally convinced that an Israeli 
bomb would destabilize the Middle East. They also knew that 
they were dealing with political dynamite, and chose to wait; 
speculation would be deadly. "Whenever you get something on 
the Israelis and you move it along," said Brugioni, "you'd bet- 
ter be careful. Especially if you've got a career." 

The pouring of concrete footings for the reactor's circular 
dome was all the evidence Lundahl needed. Lundahl rushed 
the early raw photographs to the White House; it was late 1958 
or early 1959.* Lundahl understood the rules: he carried no 
written report — paper was never to be generated in the U-2 
briefings. "Ike didn't want any notes — period," recalled Lun- 
dahl. The special secrecy of the U-2 was heightened by the fact 

* The lack of any written notes or documents inevitably made it difficult for Bru- 
gioni and Lundahl to recall the dates of specific events, such as the date of Lundahl's 
briefing on Dimona to President Eisenhower. No declassified documents about such 
briefings are available to the public in the Eisenhower Library in Abilene, Kansas. The 
dates cited herein are reasonable approximations, based on all the available data. 


that LundahPs unit had been given unusually broad access to 
all of America's secrets, including reports from defectors and 
covert agents in the Soviet Union and elsewhere. The photo 
interpreters also were provided with communications in- 
tercepts and reports of Soviet and Eastern European refugee 
interrogations, as compiled by special American and Israeli in- 
telligence teams. The assumption was that since most of the 
nuclear weapons installations behind the Iron Curtain were 
carefully camouflaged, the photo interpreters needed all the 
help possible. A refugee's random comment about a secret fac- 
tory somewhere in the Soviet Union often triggered a major 

The White House briefings on important issues followed a 
set pattern, Lundahl recalled: he would tell the President, usu- 
ally accompanied by Allen Dulles, the CIA director, and John 
Foster Dulles, the secretary of state, what he knew and then get 
a presidential request for further intelligence. The CIA's Pho- 
tographic Intelligence Division offered three categories of fol- 
low-up. Phase One was the immediate report — presented as 
soon as possible, as were the early photos of the Israeli reactor. 
A Phase Two report, to be presented overnight, would require 
Lundahl's shop to enlarge the intelligence photos and mount 
them for display. There would be annotation and perhaps some 
text. A Phase Three report called for extensive analysis based 
on many more overflights over many weeks. There would be 
special assignments for the U-2S, and an extensive series of pho- 

Lundahl anticipated a Phase Two or Three request on the 
Israeli intelligence. Instead, he recalled — still amazed, more 
than thirty years later — there was "no additional requirement. 
No request for details." In fact, added Lundahl, over the next 
years, "nobody came back to me, ever, on Israel. I was never 
asked to do a follow-up on any of the Israeli briefings." 

But no one told him not to do so, and so the U-2 continued to 
overfly the Negev. Lundahl also relayed the findings on 
Dimona to Lewis L. Strauss, chairman of the Atomic Energy 
Commission, and a few AEC aides who were among the hand- 
ful of officials in the Eisenhower administration cleared for U-2 
intelligence. Lundahl's standing orders called for him to pro- 


vide all nuclear intelligence to the White House and then, un- 
less directed otherwise, to the AEC commissioner. Something 
as important as Dimona was rushed over, Lundahl recalled. 

"The way I look at it," Lundahl said, "I reported all that I 
knew to my masters. They sit at a higher place on the moun- 

None of the communications between Eisenhower and Ben- 
Gurion about the ominous construction in the Negev has been 
made public, but such letters are known to have been written. 
In July 1958, at the Israeli height of concern over Nasser's Pan- 
Arabism, Ben-Gurion privately requested American "political, 
financial, and moral" assistance as Israel was standing up to 
Nasser and "Soviet expansion." Eisenhower responded, ac- 
cording to Ben-Gurion's authorized biographer, Michael Bar- 
Zohar, with a lukewarm note telling Ben-Gurion that "you can 
be confident of the United States' interest in the integrity and 
independence of Israel." Ben-Gurion had hoped to be invited 
to visit Washington for direct talks with the President. A for- 
mer Israeli government official interviewed for this book re- 
vealed that Eisenhower privately raised the issue of Dimona at 
least once in this period, prompting Ben-Gurion to request that 
the United States "extend its nuclear umbrella to Israel." 
There was no subsequent reply from Eisenhower, the former 
official said. # 

Brugioni remained fascinated by the Israeli construction at 
Dimona: "We kept on watching it. We saw it going up. The 
White House," he confirmed, also mystified, "never encour- 
aged us to do further briefings. It was always 'Thank you,' and 
'This isn't going to be disseminated, is it?' It was that attitude." 

Brugioni prepared the presidential briefing materials for 
Lundahl and knew that the intelligence on Israel was getting to 

* Few of the private messages between Eisenhower and Ben-Gurion on any subject 
have been made public by the Eisenhower Library. Retired Army General Andrew J. 
Goodpaster, Eisenhower's military aide in the White House, explained that the diplo- 
matic exchanges between the two were "very closely held" and not available at the 
time to even close subordinates. Goodpaster, who also served as military aide to Presi- 
dent Nixon, added that while there was presidential concern about "what they were 
doing at Dimona," he could remember no "specific exchange about a nuclear um- 


the top. "The thing is," Brugioni said, "I never did figure out 
whether the White House wanted Israel to have the bomb or 

LundahPs interpreters had watched, via the steady stream of 
U-2 imagery, as the construction teams (the Americans did not 
immediately know, of course, that they were French-led) dug 
two separate sites in the desert. There was an early attempt to 
estimate how large the sites were going to be by measuring the 
"spoil" — the amount of cubic feet of dirt unearthed each day. It 
was old hat for the American photo interpreters, who had 
watched in World War II as the Germans moved their indus- 
trial plants and factories underground in futile attempts to 
avoid the heavy Allied bombing. One clue that remained con- 
sistent was freshly unearthed dirt: it was always a dead give- 
away of an underground operation. The CIA profited from the 
World War II experience: its team in charge of the 1956 Berlin 
tunnel that was dug from West to East Germany successfully 
masked its extensive digging by trucking away the dirt in mili- 
tary C-ration boxes.* 

One fact became clear over the next few years: Israel knew 
about the U-2 overflights and didn't like them. At some point 
after 1958, the Israelis, using covered trucks, could be seen haul- 
ing away the dirt and debris from each day's digging. There 
was very strong circumstantial evidence by then that the sec- 
ond underground site at Dimona was being readied for the 
chemical reprocessing plant that was essential in order to make 
weapons-grade plutonium — and the bomb. The best evidence 
of Israel's intent came from an analysis of the striking similari- 
ties in layout, as seen from aerial photography, between 
Dimona and the French nuclear facility at Marcoule. The 
French facility was being constantly overflown in the late 1950s 
by civilian transport planes — equipped with hidden cameras — 
that belonged to American diplomats and military officers as- 
signed to the American embassy in Paris. By 1959, the reactor 
and the chemical reprocessing plant at Marcoule were known 
to be in full operation. "It was obvious that the Israelis were 

* The Berlin operation was compromised from within, however, by British intelli- 
gence officer and Soviet spy George Blake. 


following the French pattern," Brugioni recalled. "We saw 
enough to know that it [the second site at Dimona] was going 
to be a chemical reprocessing plant," just as the reprocessing 
plant at Marcoule was separate. 

As the Dimona reactor was completed, there was less to be 
learned from the U-2 overflights. The U-2 imagery could only 
depict what was on the surface, and the intelligence commu- 
nity would spend years trying to find out for certain whether 
Israel had taken the next step — construction of a chemical 
reprocessing plant. American military attaches were assigned 
to find a reason to travel to the desert — the CIA station even 
offered to buy the wine for any seemingly casual group that 
wanted to picnic — and take photographs. Special automatic 
cameras with preset lens settings were developed by the CIA 
for the attaches. "All they had to do was push the trigger," 
recalled Lundahl. In the early years, he added, a few of the 
attaches "snuck in and got some good shots." Later, in an at- 
tempt to determine whether the chemical reprocessing plant 
was in operation, the CIA began urging attaches to pick up 
grass and shrubs for later analysis. The theory was that traces 
of plutonium and other fission products, if being produced, 
would be in the environment. "A guy would go where there 
were clumps of grass and pretend to take a crap," recalled Bru- 
gioni with a laugh. "While pretending to wipe his butt he'd 
grab some grass and stick it in his shorts." 

The Israelis responded by planting large trees to block the 
line of vision of any would-be candid photographers and in- 
creasing their perimeter patrols around Dimona. One Ameri- 
can military attache was nearly shot by Israeli guards after 
overstepping the ground rules that had been set up by the 
American embassy in Tel Aviv. 

The cat-and-mouse game would continue for the next ten 
years, with the Israelis shielding the expanding construction at 
Dimona while the United States remained unable to learn cate- 
gorically whether the Israelis were operating a chemical 
reprocessing plant. "We knew they were trying to fool us," said 
Brugioni, "and they knew it. The Israelis understood [aerial] 
reconnaissance. Hell, most of them were trained by the U.S. 
Air Force. It was an Alphonse and Gaston act." 


There was much more intelligence, Brugioni believed, that 
did not filter down to the interpreters: "Allen Dulles would 
occasionally ask me if I'd seen 'the Jewish information' " — re- 
ferring to CIA agent reports dealing with the Israeli bomb. "I'd 
say no," Brugioni added, "and his office would call later and 
tell me to forget it." One of the most complicated issues in- 
volved the question of American Jews who were also intensely 
committed — as many were — to the security of Israel. A few 
American nuclear physicists were known to have emigrated to 
Israel after World War II; one was a veteran of the Manhattan 
Project who had worked until 1956 in the most sensitive areas of 
nuclear reactor design. "We knew there were Jews going to 
Israel who were telling them how to do it," said Brugioni. On 
the other hand, he said, "We were getting information from 
Jews who went to Israel and never told the Israelis they talked 
to us." Jewish physicists and scientists began returning from 
visits to Israel by the late 1950s with increasingly specific infor- 
mation about Israeli interest in nuclear weapons. The CIA had 
even been tipped off" about the fact that Israel was raising large 
sums of money for Dimona from the American Jewish commu- 

By the end of 1959, Lundahl and Brugioni had no doubt that 
Israel was going for the bomb. There also was no doubt that 
President Eisenhower and his advisers were determined to look 
the other way. 

Brugioni said he and the others also chose in the end not to 
raise any questions about Dimona: "There was a lot of policy 
that we didn't know about — and we didn't care to know. We 
weren't stupid; we could put two and two together. But the 
hierarchy decided to play it cool — and that's the way it was. If 
you're a senior officer, you learn to read the tea leaves quickly 
— and keep your mouth shut. Period." 


Internal Wars 

Israel's nuclear bomb project was besieged with ene- 
mies — from within and without — in its early history. The vast 
majority of those senior officials who knew what was going on 
at Dimona thought it folly to waste such prodigious amounts of 
money on a doomsday weapon that might or might not work 
when conventional weapons such as tanks, guns, and aircraft 
were desperately needed. The concept of underdeveloped and 
underfinanced Israel as a superpower seemed ludicrous. By the 
early 1960s, Dimona, with its huge manpower needs, had hired 
many of the most skilled Israeli scientists and technicians away 
from local research and manufacturing companies, resulting in 
a much-criticized slowdown in the growth of the nation's in- 
dustrial base. There also were moral objections from a few 
members of the scientific and academic community, including 
two of the original members of the Israeli Atomic Energy 
Commission. By 1957, as construction began on the reactor, 
four more members of the commission had resigned, essentially 
because they had nothing to do. The only commission member 
still on the job was its chairman, Ernst David Bergmann. 

Bergmann, David Ben-Gurion, and Shimon Peres were wag- 
ing what amounted to constant war — all in secret — to keep the 
Israeli bomb project alive. The most threatening problem came 
from Israel's partner in secrecy — the French. General Charles 
de Gaulle had won a seven-year term as president of France's 
newly constituted Fifth Republic in December 1958 by promis- 
ing to find an acceptable compromise for ending the war in 
Algeria. The war, which de Gaulle continued to prosecute, had 
sharply divided the nation, as the Vietnam War would later 
divide the United States; all other issues, such as the question 


of continued support for Israel, seemed secondary. De Gaulle 
was known to be emphatically in favor of an independent nu- 
clear deterrent for France, but it was not known how he might 
react to the profound French commitment to Dimona. It was a 
worrisome matter for those members of the French Atomic 
Energy Commission who supported the Israeli bomb, and they 
handled the issue in the time-honored way of the bureaucracy: 
they did not tell de Gaulle what was going on. Contracts had 
been signed and money paid, and the work was proceeding at 

The French on the job at Dimona were also a source of turmoil. 
Hundreds of French engineers and technicians had begun 
pouring into the Negev in 1957, and Beersheba bustled with 
construction as new apartment complexes and residential units 
were thrown together. Housing also was made available to the 
thousands of North African Jews (or Sephardim) who emi- 
grated from Morocco and Algeria, hired to do the digging and 
building of the reactor and reprocessing plant. European Jews 
were slowly and carefully recruited from government and pri- 
vate businesses throughout Israel to serve as scientists and bu- 
reaucratic managers; they, too, were provided with housing in 
Beersheba. There was a caste system in the desert, and the 
French were on top, as they repeatedly made all too clear. 

"The French were arrogant," said one Israeli who spent part 
of his career at Dimona. "They thought Jews [in Israel] were 
inferior. We weren't slick and we didn't dress well — but we 
were bright." Some of the French officials were openly anti- 
Semitic, the Israeli recalled, and one — eventually ordered out 
of Israel — was found to have collaborated with the Nazis dur- 
ing World War II. The French treatment of the Jews from 
North Africa who had been hired as laborers was even worse, 
the Israeli added: "They would speak of Jews from Algeria and 
Morocco like they were stones — inferior beings. It was Nazi- 
like." Even those Frenchmen who were Jewish did little to ease 
the tension; many considered themselves to be of a different 
class and social standing than their less sophisticated Israeli 
colleagues. Ironically, the Algerian and Moroccan Jews also 
were mistreated by their Israeli employers. One standing 


rule was that the Moroccans and Algerians would be hired 
only for fifty-nine days and then dismissed, a strategem that 
avoided paying any of the many benefits that came with tenure 
(the Israeli economy was dominated by the labor movement), 
which was reached after two months on the job. After a few 
days off, the North African Jewish laborers would be rehired 
for another fifty-nine days. "Some socialist government," said 
the Israeli, with a caustic laugh. The North African Jews were 
"treated like slaves" by French and Israelis alike. 

By mid-1960, when there were rumors of a possible French 
pullout, many Israelis couldn't have cared less: they'd had their 
fill of the French. The Israeli scientists and technicians had 
absorbed much of the French technical data by then — many 
plans were modified extensively on the job — and the reaction 
was, an Israeli recalled, "Go. We'll do it ourselves." Abraham 
Sourassi, one of the senior Israelis at Dimona — he was respon- 
sible for building the reprocessing plant — endeared himself to 
his countrymen by declaring, "Good riddance," upon hearing 
of de Gaulle's disenchantment with Dimona. "It was the typi- 
cal Israeli attitude — just show us," said the former Dimona offi- 
cial. "We'll copy it and do it better." 

The long hours, hard work, and French smugness did not 
diminish the excitement of being involved with Israel's most 
important secret. "We felt great," said one of the first Israelis 
hired to manage the construction in 1958. "We were pioneers." 
The official recalled his initial interview with Ernst Bergmann: 
"He tells me, 'We have a big project and we need the best 
brains. It's going to be something remarkable that you'll never 
forget.' " Bergmann also assured the young man that his new 
job would be good for his career — as good as serving with the 
Israeli Defense Force: "He said it'd be 'a feather in my cap. It's 
going to be modern.' So I filled out the forms. Took me three 
months to go through security." Those Israelis who had been 
members of the Communist Party (as many had been before 
immigrating to Israel) and those with relatives in Eastern Eu- 
rope were barred from employment because of growing Israeli 
fears of Soviet penetration, fanned to no small degree by the 
growing antagonism between Moscow and Jerusalem. Israel had 
been racked by a series of spy scandals by the late 1950s, and the 


intelligence operatives in the sixty-man Soviet embassy in Tel 
Aviv were believed to especially target the scientific commu- 

Providing security for the burgeoning nuclear operation was 
a high priority and led Shimon Peres to insist on the creation 
of a new intelligence agency, initially known as the Office of 
Special Tasks. Its director, handpicked by Peres, was a tall, 
quiet former military intelligence officer named Binyamin 
Blumberg. The Office of Special Tasks, bureaucratically placed 
inside the defense ministry, would become one of the most 
successful intelligence agencies in modern history — and, after 
Blumberg's resignation more than twenty years later, be re- 
sponsible for one of Israel's worst mistakes, the recruitment of 
Jonathan Pollard. Blumberg's sole mission in the late 1950s was 
protecting Dimona, and he made it a point to be involved in the 
details. One Israeli responsible for recruiting scientists told of 
having an excellent prospect rejected by Dimona's security of- 
fice because of distant relatives in Eastern Europe. He appealed 
to Blumberg, who had the power to overturn any bureaucratic 
rule: "I had to beg Blumberg to get him hired. We needed him 
desperately. He did it — but he said it had to be 'on my life.' " 

By early i960, the reactor at Dimona was taking shape, and 
many Israeli nuclear physicists and technicians were sum- 
moned back from France, where they had spent years in train- 
ing at Saclay and Marcoule. The top scientists were provided 
with double pay and subsidized seven-room apartments in 
Beersheba, space unheard of in those years in Israel. Those 
who stayed long enough eventually were given possession of 
the apartments, worth at least $50,000, and permitted to sell 
them at their leisure. 

As the pace and intensity of construction grew, Beersheba 
inevitably became an international city. The French presence 
was palpable, as upward of 2,500 French men, women, and chil- 
dren made their life in the Negev. There were special French 
schools for the children, and the streets were full of French 
autos. All of this was duly reported by foreign diplomats and 
military attaches assigned to various embassies in Tel Aviv. 
There were constantly recurring rumors of the bomb, but the 


cover stories — usually revolving around seawater desaliniza- 
tion or agricultural research — somehow held. 

Ian Smart was a young British diplomat on his first foreign 
assignment in the late 1950s, as third secretary of his country's 
small embassy in Tel Aviv. He would go on to become an inter- 
national expert in nonproliferation, but in those years he was 
merely curious — and suspicious. "There was a lot of talk by the 
end of i960 about Dimona," he recalled years later, "prompted, 
for one thing, by the sheer progress of the site. It was already 
very apparent on the skyline. And from the road you could see 
the cooling tower base of the [reactor] dome and the beginning 
of the rib structure. Secondly, there was the French presence in 
Beersheba. There was an apartment block they used with a lot 
of Renault Dauphins about — all carrying French registration." 
The Israeli government, when officially asked about the activi- 
ties at Dimona, told the British embassy a series of stories. One 
early claim, recalls Smart, was that the area was a desert grass- 
lands research institute. Smart himself heard a second explana- 
tion while driving with a group of Israeli Defense Force troops 
in the Negev. Smart pointed out the cooling tower and an of- 
ficer replied, "Ah yes. That's the new manganese-processing 

Throughout the last year of his stay, Smart adds, "I was re- 
porting the 'suspicion' that this looked like a nuclear reactor. 
But how do you get more than a suspicion without putting a 
U-2 over it?" 

The Eisenhower administration, as Smart could not know, was 
in its third year of U-2 overflights of Dimona by i960, and ex- 
panding its coverage. Art Lundahl, Dino Brugioni, and their 
colleagues in the U-2 shop at the CIA were now requesting 
systematic overflights of the French nuclear test site near Reg- 
gane, Algeria, in the Sahara. The French had successfully 
tested their first nuclear bomb in February i960; it had a yield 
of more than sixty kilotons, three times larger than the first 
American test at Los Alamos. And the CIA knew that an Israeli 
scientific team had been at the test site as observers. There was 
another concern: Israeli scientists also had been tracked to a 
nearby French chemical and biological weapons (CBW) testing 


area in the Sahara. "I wondered," Brugioni recalled, "were the 
Israelis looking at CBW as a stopgap until they got the bomb? 
We thought they may have a CBW capability." All of this was 
immediately shared with the Eisenhower White House, Bru- 
gioni said. 

The Israelis and French continued to monitor the U-2 over- 
flights, but they also continued to operate with the most strin- 
gent secrecy at Dimona — as if no outsider understood what was 
going on. 

French workers at Dimona were forbidden to write directly 
to relatives and friends in France and elsewhere, but sent mail to 
a phony post office box in Latin America. Mail from France to 
Israel was routed the same way. The sophisticated equipment 
for the reactor and processing plant was assembled by the 
French Atomic Energy Commission in a clandestine workshop 
in a Paris suburb and transported by truck, rail, and ship. 

The heaviest equipment, such as the reactor tank, was de- 
scribed to French customs officials as components of a seawater 
desalinization plant bound for Latin America. Israel also 
needed an illicit shipment of heavy water — it was impractical 
to rely on the heavy-water process invented by the Weizmann 
Institute, which was too slow — and turned, as did most of the 
world's nuclear powers, to the Norwegians, who before World 
War II had invented an electrolysis method for producing large 
quantities of heavy water. Norway remained among the inter- 
national leaders in the export of heavy water in the 1950s, and 
its sales to the French Atomic Energy Commission had only 
one condition — that the heavy water not be transferred to a 
third country. That stipulation was ignored as the French Air 
Force secretly flew as much as four tons of the water — stored in 
oversized barrels — to Israel sometime in 1960.* A French cover 

* Details of this and many other areas of French cooperation with Israel were ini- 
tially reported by Pierre Pean, a French journalist, in his richly documented 1982 book 
Les Deux Bombes (Fayard), which was not published in the United States. The essential 
facts in Pean's book were verified by the author of this book in subsequent interviews 
with French and Israeli officials. Those officials raised questions, however, about the 
motives of some of those who had aided Pean. Many of the French companies, they 
said, that had been involved in the construction of Dimona in the early 1960s were 
working under contract for Iraq, with the approval of the French Atomic Energy 
Commission, at the time of the bombing of Osirak in 1981. It was the subsequent politi- 


firm, the Research Company for Financing and Enterprise, 
eventually was set up to handle the extensive contacts and ne- 
gotiations with the Israeli government and various Israeli sub- 
contractors who would actually build Dimona. There was no 
problem of security among the subcontractors; all contracts 
were funneled through Peres and his colleagues in Mapai. The 
largest Israeli engineering company at Dimona, Solel Bone 
Ltd., of Haifa, was closely associated with the Mapai Party; 
Israelis involved in the early stages of construction at Dimona 
acknowledged that there was an extensive, and traditional, sys- 
tem of diverting contract funds to the party. 

All of this cost money, and the huge expense of Dimona was a 
constant source of dissent inside the Israeli government, which 
was in a struggle to match Egypt in the rapid arms buildup in 
the Middle East. Egypt acquired its first Soviet advanced 
fighter plane, the MiG-21, in i960, and Israel continued to pur- 
chase the most advanced warplanes available from the French. 
Both countries obtained bombers from their international pa- 
trons, and both were continuing research into ballistic missile 
delivery systems. By 1961, however, Egypt's military expendi- 
tures had reached nearly $340 million, twice as much as Israel 
was spending. 

The perennial critics of Israel's nuclear program, who in- 
cluded Levi Eshkol, the finance minister, and Pinhas Sapir, 
minister of commerce and industry — the two men dominated 
the Israeli budget process for more than fifteen years — saw the 
Egyptian arms buildup as the most compelling argument 
against investing money at Dimona. 

Just how much Israel was spending on the bomb in these 
years is impossible to estimate accurately, and Israel's 1957 con ~ 
tract with the French for the construction at Dimona has never 
been made public. One rough estimate, published by the Israeli 
press in December i960, put the cost of the reactor alone at $130 
million. A detailed study of overall nuclear start-up costs was 
published in 1983 by Thomas W. Graham, a nonproliferation 

cal and economic anger at the Israelis that led a few private and public officials to 
cooperate fully with Pean and provide him with documentation of the French role at 


expert and former U.S. Arms Control and Disarmament 
Agency (ACDA) official. Graham concluded that France had 
spent between $10 billion and $15 billion to assemble its secure 
strike capability, including thermonuclear weapons, with as 
much as half spent on delivery systems. India similarly would 
have to invest as much as 10 to 23 percent of its annual defense 
budget in the nuclear area, Graham wrote, if it were to achieve 
status as a full-scale nuclear power. 

Israel's strategic goal was to achieve nothing less than a se- 
cure strike capacity, with themonuclear weapons and missile 
and aircraft delivery systems capable of reaching targets in the 
Soviet Union. The cost of those ambitions was heightened by 
the fact that so much of the facility at Dimona, including its 
chemical reprocessing plant, was being built underground. 
The difficulties of working below the surface could only sky- 
rocket the already high costs of ventilation, waste disposal, and 
worker safety. Other significant cost factors included the obli- 
gation to pay workers well in union-dominated Israel, a reli- 
ance on foreign nationals such as the French, and the extensive 
security needed to protect a secret facility. Israel's ultimate 
commitment undoubtedly amounted to many billions of dol- 

Ben-Gurion understood that getting Dimona complete 
would be possible only if it were not being financed out of the 
Israeli budget. The solution was to begin secret fund-raising 
for the bomb abroad. Israel already was receiving, according to 
American intelligence estimates, hundreds of millions a year in 
overall gifts and contributions from American Jews alone. 
Sometime in i960, Shimon Peres decided to form a special 
group of trusted and discreet donors that became known, ac- 
cording to Israeli sources, as the Committee of Thirty. Certain 
wealthy Jews around the world, including Baron Edmund de 
Rothschild of Paris and Abraham Feinberg of New York, were 
asked to quietly raise money for what Peres called the "special 
weapons" program, and they did so. Years later, Peres would 
brag to an interviewer that "not one penny [for Dimona] came 
from the government budget. The project was financed from 
contributions I raised from Jewish millionaires who under- 
stood the importance of the issue. We collected forty million 


dollars." Peres also said that he "brought Jewish millionaires to 
Dimona. I told them what would be here." Former Israeli gov- 
ernment officials confirmed that at least one group of foreign 
contributors was permitted to visit Dimona in 1968, after its 

The $40 million raised by Peres would not be nearly enough, 
however. Israeli officials estimated that by the mid-1960s Israel 
was spending not scores of millions but hundreds of millions 
of dollars annually on its nuclear program, with the Peres 
operation producing a small percentage of the funds and the 
government underwriting the rest. Ben-Gurion's insistence on 
continuing to invest that kind of money in the bomb remained 
a severe source of conflict inside his cabinet and the Mapai 

There were reasons other than financial for objecting to the 
bomb. Old-fashioned military men such as Yigal Allon, who 
had led troops during the War of Independence; Yitzhak Rabin, 
the army chief of operations who was destined to be chief of 
staff; and Ariel Sharon, the Israeli general and commando 
leader, believed that Israel's essential advantage over the Arabs 
was the quality and training of its military personnel. To these 
men, nuclear weapons were nothing more than a great equal- 
izer: an Egypt equipped with the bomb was far more danger- 
ous to Israel than an Egypt limited to conventional arms, even 
in huge quantities. If Israel possessed nuclear weapons, their 
analysis continued, it would be impossible to deny them to 
Egypt or other nations in the Middle East.* 

Another compelling argument against Dimona was made by 
the nation's industrial managers throughout the early 1960s, as 
the reactor and chemical reprocessing plant — nearing comple- 
tion — continued to necessitate the recruitment of additional 
scientists and technicians. Israel was, in essence, facing what 
amounted to a domestic brain drain. By the late 1960s, senior 

* Moshe Dayan, as one of the few military men who supported the bomb in these 
early years, was an anomaly. American nonproliferation experts eventually came to 
understand that there was a correlation between the attitude of military officers toward 
the bomb and a national commitment to going nuclear. Many senior military officers in 
both Israel and India objected bitterly to the nuclear weapons arsenal in its early 
development. However, once the bomb joined the military arsenal, as it did in India in 
the late 1970s and in Israel a few years earlier, dissent ceased. 


officials of the ministry of commerce and industry were pub- 
licly critical of the reduced level of industrial research in the 
nation. Government funding for such research had been drasti- 
cally cut back, and industry was lagging increasingly behind 
science. Scientific innovations still took place, but there were 
few engineering companies capable of turning those ideas into 
profitable goods that manufacturers could put into production. 
Officials who worked at Dimona in those years acknowl- 
edged the predatory hiring practices, with the nation's chemi- 
cal industry being a prime target. "We raided every place in the 
country," one former official recalled with pride. "We depleted 
Israel's industrial system." The only facility off-limits was the 
small research reactor at Nahal Soreq, near the Weizmann In- 
stitute. At its height, the former official said, fifteen hundred 
Israeli scientists, many with doctorates, worked at Dimona. 

The first overt sign of de Gaulle's unease over France's nuclear 
commitment to Israel came in May i960, when Maurice Couve 
de Murville, the French foreign minister, informed the Israeli 
ambassador that France wanted Israel to make a public an- 
nouncement about the reactor at Dimona and also agree to sub- 
mit it to international inspection, similar to the inspection of 
Nahal Soreq. Without such acts, Couve de Murville said, 
France would not supply raw uranium to the reactor. Ben- 
Gurion decided to fly to France for a summit meeting. The two 
leaders got along well: de Gaulle would later characterize Ben- 
Gurion in his memoirs as "one of the greatest statesmen of our 
time. . . . From the very first moment, I felt sympathetic ad- 
miration for this courageous fighter and champion. His person- 
ality symbolized Israel, which he has ruled since the day he 
presided over her creation and struggle." Ben-Gurion, in turn, 
found de Gaulle to be a "lively, humane man with a sense of 
humor, very alert, and much kindness." 

Bertrand Goldschmidt's personal notes of the meeting, pro- 
vided to the author, show that de Gaulle, embroiled in Algeria, 
was worried about the potential for international scandal if 
France's involvement with Dimona became publicly known. 
De Gaulle explained, according to the notes, that "if France 
was the only country to help Israel, while neither the United 


States, Britain, or the Soviet Union has helped anyone else [get 
the bomb], she would put herself in an impossible international 
situation." There was a second worry: "No doubt if Israel had 
the atomic bomb, Egypt would be receiving one as well." 

The critical concern for de Gaulle was Dimona's under- 
ground chemical reprocessing plant, then being built according 
to French specifications: he did not want to be responsible for 
making the Israeli bomb inevitable. French help in building the 
plant would have to cease. Ben-Gurion gave his view of the 
Arab threat, but de Gaulle insisted that the Israeli prime minis- 
ter was "exaggerating the danger of destruction that threatens 
you. In no way will we allow you to be massacred. . . . We 
will defend you. We will not let Israel fall." De Gaulle offered 
to sell Israel more fighter aircraft. 

De Gaulle came away from his meeting convinced, as he 
wrote in his memoirs, that he had ordered all work to stop on 
the reprocessing plant: "I put an end to abusive practices of 
collaboration established on the military level, after the Suez 
expedition, between Tel Aviv and Paris, and which introduced 
Israelis permanently to all levels of staff and French services. 
Thus in particular there was a stop to the aid provided by us 
near Beersheba, for a plant to transform uranium into pluto- 
nium from which some fine day atom bombs could arise." De 
Gaulle's order, if issued, was ignored. Saint-Gobain's work on 
the underground reprocessing plant was delayed for more than 
two years, but in 1962 a new French contractor arrived and 
finished the job. 

Ben-Gurion was pleased with de Gaulle's promises of contin- 
ued military aid, but he was not willing to trade an Israeli bomb 
for French warplanes. Over the next few months, Shimon 
Peres was able to work out a compromise in talks with Couve 
de Murville that centered on what amounted to an Israeli lie, 
one that would dominate Israel's public stance on nuclear arms 
for decades. The Israelis assured France that they had no inten- 
tion of manufacturing an atomic bomb and would not do any 
reprocessing of plutonium. A compromise of sorts was reached: 
French companies would continue to supply the uranium ore 
and reactor parts that already had been ordered and not de- 
mand any foreign inspection. Israel would make public the ex- 


istence of its nuclear reactor and continue its construction at 
Dimona without any official French government help. 

With the friendly summit behind him, Ben-Gurion did noth- 
ing to change the status quo at Dimona. Neither did de Gaulle 
or the French government. The privately owned French con- 
struction firms and their employees maintained a vigorous 
presence at Dimona until 1966 and continued to be well paid 
under the existing contracts. 


Going Public 

By December i960, John W. Finney had been a re- 
porter for three years in the Washington bureau of the New 
York Times, covering nuclear issues and the Atomic Energy 
Commission (AEC). Finney, hired away from United Press In- 
ternational by bureau chief James A. Reston, was considered a 
solid addition to the news staff — but he had yet to bust a big 

Finney's story came late that month and was, as Finney re- 
called, "handed to me on a platter." 

The messenger was the Times's redoubtable Arthur Krock, 
then the patriarch of Washington columnists, who approached 
Finney's desk late one afternoon. Krock was known to young 
bureau reporters such as Finney for his remoteness and for 
his daily long lunches with senior government officials at 
the private Metropolitan Club, a few blocks from the White 

"Mr. Finney," Krock said, "I think if you call John McCone, 
he'll have a story for you." John A. McCone, a very wealthy 
Republican businessman from California, was chairman of the 
AEC, and Finney had established good rapport with him. Fin- 
ney immediately understood the situation: "They were looking 
to plant a story. I was the right person and Krock was the 
intermediary." Finney made the call and was promptly invited 
to McCone's office. 

"McCone was mad, sputtering mad," Finney recalled. "He 
started talking and saying, 'They lied to us.' " 



"The Israelis. They told us it was a textile plant."* There was 
new intelligence, McCone said, revealing that the Israelis had 
secretly built a nuclear reactor in the Negev with French help; 
McCone wanted Finney to take the story public. Finney's sub- 
sequent article, published December 19 on page one in the 
Times, told the American people what Art Lundahl and Dino 
Brugioni had been reporting to the White House for more than 
two years: that Israel, with the aid of the French, was building 
a nuclear reactor to produce plutonium. "Israel had made no 
public announcement about the reactor, nor has she privately 
informed the United States of her plan," Finney wrote, faith- 
fully reflecting what McCone told him. "There is an ill-con- 
cealed feeling of annoyance among officials that the United 
States has been left in the dark by two of its international 
friends, France and Israel." 

Finney's story also noted that McCone had "questioned" 
Israel about the new information but then added: "Mr. 
McCone refused to go into details." It was standard operating 
procedure for official Washington: Finney got the story and 
McCone was able to duck responsibility for giving it to him. 

McCone's leak to Finney would be his parting shot as AEC 
commissioner; a few days later he announced his resignation 
on Meet the Press, the NBC Sunday television interview show. 
The Finney story was being written that same day. Finney was 

* There is no evidence that the Israeli government ever claimed to Washington that 
the construction at Dimona was a textile plant. Those American and European diplo- 
mats who inquired invariably were informed that Dimona was a research facility (usu- 
ally for agriculture) or a chemical plant. McCone's comment to Finney became widely 
accepted as fact, nonetheless, and prompted a whimsical column by Art Buchwald in 
the New York Herald Tribune on January 10, 1961. Buchwald told of an Israeli cab driver 
who six months earlier had driven an American diplomat to Dimona in search of a suit, 
at wholesale prices, from the textile plant. The technicians at Dimona decided to let 
him in and pretend that "nothing was going on." When the diplomat inquired about 
buying a suit, he was told: " 'Perhaps you would like something in cobalt blue? Or 
maybe a nice uranium brown? How about a cosmic gray, double-breasted, with pin- 
striped particles?' " The diplomat was measured for his suit behind a six-foot wall of 
lead. Another scientist "rushed in with a Geiger counter, a slide rule, and two robot 
arms. The head of the plant took a pad and said: 'Shimshon, call off the customer's 
measurements.' Shimshon yelled out: 'Ten, nine, eight, seven, six, five, four, three, two, 
one, oi!' " There were more measurements: " 'Waist U-235; relatively good chest; there 
is a hexagonal prism in the left shoulder; the right sleeve needs reactor.' " As the 
diplomat left, Buchwald wrote, he was told: " 'Please, kind sir, do not tell your friends 
about us because we have too much work now, and if we take any more orders the 
plant will explode.' " 


convinced, as McCone wanted him to be, that the commission- 
er's anger stemmed from recently acquired knowledge, some 
new intelligence about the Israelis. "McCone left me with the 
impression," Finney recalled, "that they'd suddenly appreci- 
ated that the Israelis were lying to them." 

Finney paid a higher price than he realized for his big story; 
the Eisenhower administration was using him and the New York 
Times to accomplish what its senior officials were publicly ap- 
prehensive about doing themselves — taking on the Israelis over 
Dimona. McCone, as he did not indicate to Finney, had been 
briefed regularly on the Israeli nuclear program after replacing 
Lewis Strauss as AEC commissioner in July 1958; there is no 
evidence that Strauss, who also received regular briefings on 
Dimona from Art Lundahl and Dino Brugioni, personally 
shared his knowledge with McCone. But Lundahl and Bru- 
gioni did. McCone, as AEC chairman, was a member of the 
U.S. Intelligence Advisory Committee, the top-level group at 
the time, and was, according to Walter N. Elder, a former CIA 
official who was McCone's long-time aide, "in on the action 
from the beginning. He sat at the table." 

What made McCone (who died in early 1991 after a long, 
incapacitating illness) join the administration in suddenly re- 
acting to intelligence that had been around for years? Walt 
Elder, who wrote the still-classified history of McCone's CIA 
tenure, described McCone as being committed to the concept 
of nuclear nonproliferation and also aware of the convenient 
fact that Eisenhower was a month away from ending his eight- 
year reign in the White House. There could be no better time 
to act. "He figured, 'I'm through and this is my duty — to let the 
public know about this,' " said Elder. Another issue, he added, 
was McCone's frustration at the constant Israeli lying about 
Dimona: "There was an impetus to do them in." 

By December i960, work at Dimona had progressed to the 
point where the reactor dome had become visible from nearby 
roads in the Negev, and thus was more susceptible to being 
photographed by military attaches. By this time, too, the U-2 
program was in disarray: its decline began in May i960, when 


Gary Francis Powers was shot down over the Soviet Union. 
Premier Nikita Khrushchev's rage at the incident, which 
caught the White House in a series of lies, ruined Eisenhower's 
Paris summit meieting scheduled for a few weeks later and led 
him to order an end to all reconnaissance flights over Russia. 
Arthur Lundahl recalled those months as being "full of finger- 
pointing and turbulence." The Powers fiasco did not diminish 
the fact that Eisenhower and Khrushchev had made steady 
progress over the previous year in drafting a comprehensive 
treaty banning all nuclear tests; such testing was suspended by 
both nations until September 1961. That success had led to an 
overall heightened sensitivity about nuclear proliferation, and 
also may have played a role in the sudden concern over 
Dimona. Another factor may have been timing: with the ad- 
ministration coming to an end, there was no longer any com- 
pelling reason to worry about domestic pressure from Jewish 
lobbying groups. 

Whatever the reason, even before McCone's summoning of 
John Finney, there was a coordinated effort at the top levels of 
government to make Israel acknowledge what it was doing at 
Dimona. Such unanimity of purpose and widespread access to 
sensitive intelligence about Dimona wouldn't happen again — 

By the date of McCone's appearance on Meet the Press, Wash- 
ington had been awash for at least ten days with new informa- 
tion about Dimona and a new desire to do something about it. 
Even Christian A. Herter, the usually detached and preoccu- 
pied secretary of state, was in on it. Armin H. Meyer, a senior 
foreign service officer soon to be posted as ambassador to Leba- 
non, recalled his surprise in early December at finding Herter 
seemingly upset upon being given a photograph of the reactor, 
as taken from a highway. Herter, the under secretary who had 
been given the top job after the death of John Foster Dulles in 
May 1959, had gone so far as to call in Avraham Harman, the 
Israeli ambassador, for an explanation. "I remember being 
amazed that he felt he could take on the Israelis," Meyer said. 
"It was the only time I really saw him burn. Something must 


have happened in the nuclear field that gave him the safety to 
raise the issue. He felt he was on sacred ground."* 

Herter, in fact, had done some independent checking of his 
own. Shortly after receiving the intelligence, he asked an aide 
to approach the French and find out whether they indeed were 
helping the Israelis. The aide, Philip J. Farley, had been around 
— he'd served since 1956 as a special assistant to John Foster 
Dulles for arms control — and knew that a direct approach 
would be "pointless." Farley quietly raised the issue with a 
deputy to the French ambassador and came away convinced, as 
he reported to Herter, that the fears about a French connection 
were warranted. The ambassador's deputy "said all the right 
things," Farley recalled, referring to his pro forma denials, 
"but the way he acted . . ." The next step was a discussion 
with the ambassador, who insisted that Dimona was "merely a 
research reactor." Farley was enough of an expert to know that 
the reactor at Dimona was obviously too large for pure re- 
search, and, after a discussion in the National Security Council, 
Herter was instructed by the White House to give a formal 
diplomatic protest (known as a demarche) to the French. As 
luck would have it, Couve de Murville, the French foreign min- 
ister, was in Washington for a meeting. He was approached, 
Farley recalled, but assured the State Department that the Is- 
raeli reactor was benign and that any plutonium generated in 
its operation would be returned to France for safekeeping. "He 
just plain lied to us," said Farley, still indignant in an interview 
thirty years later. At the time, of course, Farley added, he and 
his colleagues in the bureaucracy did not begin to realize the 
extent of Couve de Murville's dissembling; they had no idea 
that it was France that had made the Israeli bomb possible. 

The summoning of Israeli Ambassador Harman had taken 
place on December 9; within days, the administration had esca- 

* Herter had stunned America's European allies during his April 1959 confirmation 
hearings by declaring that he could not "conceive of any President engaging in all-out 
nuclear war unless we were in danger of all-out devastation ourselves." The statement, 
while undoubtedly correct, played into the hands of de Gaulle's ambitions for the force 
de frappe. The historian Richard J. Barnet, writing about Herter's statement in 1983, 
commented: "In a sentence the new secretary had blown away the solemn assurances 
of a decade." 


lated the question of what was going on at Dimona to a near- 
crisis level. House and Senate members of the Joint Committee 
on Atomic Energy were summoned urgently from Christmas 
recess to a secret briefing on Dimona by CIA and State Depart- 
ment officials. CIA Director Allen Dulles also arranged for 
President-elect John F. Kennedy be be briefed. It seems clear 
that none of this — the demarche to the French, the briefing of 
the joint committee, and the briefing of the President-elect — 
could have taken place without the explicit approval of Dwight 

Washington also was sharing its concern with its allies, and it 
was that communication that moved the diplomatic concern 
about Dimona onto the front pages. The story broke in the 
world's press on December 16, when the London Daily Express, 
a tabloid, published a major story saying that "British and 
American intelligence authorities believe that the Israelis are 
well on the way to building their first experimental nuclear 
bomb." The dispatch was written by Chapman Pincher, 
known for his close ties to the British intelligence and nuclear 
communities. Pincher had indeed gotten a tip from a senior 
figure in British atomic weapons research, whose concern was 
that an Israeli bomb would necessarily be "dirty" — that is, gen- 
erate a lot of radioactive fallout. Pincher, in a telephone inter- 
view, said that his next step was to call an old contact in 
Mossad and verify the story. "I had a very good connection to 
Mossad," Pincher said. "I had good Jewish friends here [in 
London]. They did make use of me for quite a long time — 
feeding me anti-Palestinian information." Pincher's relation- 
ship with Mossad was predicated on the understanding that, as 
he recalled, "if they ever fed me a bum steer, I'd blow them out 
of the water." 

McCone's leak to John Finney, his strong statements on Meet 
the Press, and his later actions in the Kennedy administration — 
he replaced Allen Dulles as CIA director in the fall of 1961 — 
would get him labeled by some as anti-Semitic. There was no 
known basis for such allegations, however: McCone, as he 
would demonstrate anew as CIA director, was dead set against 
any nuclear proliferation and repeatedly railed against the 


French as well as the Israelis. He also was offended by the 
Israeli and French lying about their collaboration in the Negev, 
and he viewed Washington's acquiescence in those lies with 
contempt. Myron B. Kratzer, the AEC's director of interna- 
tional affairs in December i960, recalled being telephoned a few 
hours before McCone's farewell appearance on Meet the Press by 
a State Department colleague and told to urge McCone to 
downplay the Israeli issue. Kratzer relayed the request, and 
McCone blew up. "He said to me," Kratzer recalls, " 'I haven't 
lived all these years to go out of office telling anything less than 
the truth.' "* One of McCone's goals, Kratzer says, was to force 
the Israelis to accept international inspection of Dimona. 

In Israel, Deputy Minister of Defense Shimon Peres, fore- 
warned by Ambassador Harman and perhaps by Mossad, be- 
gan working up the cover story. There was a widespread 
suspicion in the prime minister's office that the truth about 
Dimona had been leaked to the British press by some of 
the men around de Gaulle; the French had continued to urge 
the Israelis to make public the existence of the reactor since the 
June summit meeting between de Gaulle and Ben-Gurion. Be- 
trayal by an ally was, for the Israelis, always the expected; Pe- 
res's immediate goal was to keep his and Ben-Gurion's dream 
on track. The stakes were high: any extended publicity about 
Dimona threatened one of Israel's most significant interna- 
tional successes — the purchase from Norway the year before of 
twenty tons of heavy water, to be used, Israel had assured the 
Norwegians, to fuel what was said to be an experimental nu- 
clear power station at Dimona. Norway had been given a 
pledge of peaceful use and the right to inspect the heavy water, 
which it would do only once in the next thirty-two years. The 
twenty-ton purchase of heavy water was obviously much more 
than required to fuel a twenty-four-megawatt reactor; a Nor- 

* McCone, perhaps anticipating a return to public life, did play the game nonethe- 
less, saying on television that there was only "informal and unofficial information" 
about Dimona. He also said he did not know whether any of the nuclear powers 
(France, England, the United States, and the Soviet Union) had aided Israel. McCone's 
discretion was made easier, of course, by the knowledge of the Pincher dispatch and 
the fact that the New York Times was a day away from publishing John Finney's much 
more complete story. 


wegian complaint, with its resulting publicity, would be devas- 
tating in the wake of the worldwide protests over Dimona. 

On December 20, Peres met with those defense ministry staff 
aides who knew of Dimona and summarized the various cover 
stories that would become David Ben-Gurion's public stance 
on the issue: the reactor at Dimona was part of a long-range 
program for development of the Negev desert and existed only 
for peaceful purposes. Those who called for inspection of the 
reactor, Peres said, "are the same people who advocate the in- 
ternationalization of Jerusalem."* 

On the next day, Ben-Gurion publicly described to the full 
membership of the Knesset what was being built, in the name 
of Israel, in the Negev: a twenty-four-megawatt reactor "dedi- 
cated entirely to peaceful purposes." There was another facility 
on the grounds of Dimona, the prime minister added: "a scien- 
tific institute for arid zone research." When completed, Ben- 
Gurion said, the entire facility "will be open to students from 
other countries." It was the first time members of Israel's par- 
liament had been officially told about the reactor construction. 
Asked specifically about the published reports in Europe and 
the United States, Ben-Gurion casually denied them as "either 
a deliberate or unconscious untruth." 

Ben-Gurion was treating the Knesset as he always did when 
it came to issues of state security: as a useless deliberative body 
that debated and talked instead of taking action. He and his 
colleagues simply did not believe that the talkative Knesset had 
a prominent role to play when it came to security issues. They 
were not contemptuous of the Knesset, whose deliberations on 

* Ben-Gurion and his immediate associates were prepared to say whatever was nec- 
essary for what they believed to be the good of the state. In his biography of Ben- 
Gurion, Michael Bar-Zohar tells of the prime minister's determination to shield his 
and the Israeli Army's responsibility for the brutal 1953 slaying of seventy Jordanians in 
the border village of Kibiya. The retaliatory raid had been led by Ariel Sharon. A 
statement was issued in Ben-Gurion's name blaming the atrocity on the inhabitants of 
nearby Jewish border settlements. Asked by a confidant to explain his action, Ben- 
Gurion cited a passage from Victor Hugo's Les Miserables in which a nun lies to a 
policeman about the whereabouts of an escaped prisoner. The nun committed no sin in 
lying, Ben-Gurion argued, "because her lie was designed to save human life. A lie like 
that is measured by a different yardstick." Moshe Sharett, Ben-Gurion's longtime rival, 
subsequently was depicted by Bar-Zohar as being "astounded" by the lie: "I would 
have resigned if it had fallen to me to step before a microphone and broadcast a ficti- 
tious account of what happened to the people of Israel and to the whole world." 


other issues were accepted with respect, but saw themselves as 
pragmatists who — unlike the Knesset — believed in acting first, 
and then talking. Knesset members, for their part, accepted 
Ben-Gurion's view that it would be inappropriate to assert 
their legislative rights in a debate over Dimona. Not one mem- 
ber dared to ask the obvious question: if the reactor at Dimona 
were nothing more than a peaceful research tool, as Ben-Gu- 
rion publicly insisted, why did it need to be swathed in such 
secrecy? The Knesset was only too eager to accept any govern- 
ment statement denying the intent to produce nuclear weap- 

Even Ernst David Bergmann's categorical denial of any plan 
to make the bomb was accepted without challenge, although 
Bergmann's total involvement with the bomb was widely 
known. Bergmann was in the embarrassing position of still 
serving as chairman and sole member of the Israeli Atomic 
Energy Commission, although there had been no commission- 
ers for him to chair for years. The six other members all had 
left their posts by the mid-1950s; the departures have repeatedly 
been cited by scholars and in American intelligence files as 
evidence of serious disagreement inside the Israeli scientific 
community over Bergmann's plans for Dimona. For the most 
part, they were not. The commission members moved en masse 
to the physics department at the Weizmann Institute, accord- 
ing to Israeli sources, because senior government officials hos- 
tile to nuclear development, including Levi Eshkol and Pinhas 
Lavon, then the defense minister, refused to allocate research 
funds for them. Two of the former commissioners would 
emerge in the 1960s as critics of the nuclear programs; others, 
such as Amos Deshalit, Israel's most eminent nuclear physicist, 
ended up being closely involved with Dimona. 

The Israeli statements were not challenged in subsequent 
days and weeks by the Eisenhower administration, which, hav- 
ing triggered the first public discussion of the Israeli bomb, 
immediately retreated in the face of Israeli's shameless denials. 
In a statement released to the press on the day after Ben-Gu- 
rion's speech, the White House joined with the Knesset in ac- 
cepting the Israeli cover story for Dimona at face value: "The 
government of Israel has given assurances that its new reactor 


... is dedicated solely for research purposes to develop scien- 
tific knowledge and thus to serve the needs of industry, agricul- 
ture, health and science. . . . Israel states it will welcome 
visits by students and scientists of friendly countries to the 
reactor upon its completion." The statement, personally ap- 
proved by the President, added, "It is gratifying to note that as 
made public the Israel atomic energy program does not repre- 
sent cause for special concern." 

The administration's retreat continued on the next day: it 
was now concerned with limiting the worldwide criticism di- 
rected at Israel. A private State Department circular sent on 
December 22 to American embassies around the world, written 
in cablese, noted that the government "believes Israel atomic 
energy program as made public does not represent cause for 
special concern." Officials of the department, who had been 
involved in the initial decision earlier in the month to pressure 
Israel, were now said, according to the circular, which was 
released under the Freedom of Information Act, to be "consid- 
erably disturbed by large amount of info re USG [United 
States Government] interest in Israel's atomic program which 
has leaked into American and world press. Effort has been to 
create more excitement than facts as revealed by Israelis war- 
rant. Department will do what it can in Washington and hopes 
addressee posts can assist in stilling atmosphere." The notion 
of "stilling atmosphere" would define America's enduring pol- 
icy toward the Israeli bomb. 

There was one final protest, in secret. On January 6, 1961, 
Christian Herter gave his farewell briefing as secretary of state 
to a closed session of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee 
(the transcript was declassified in 1984). Dimona came up, and 
Herter was discussing the "disturbing" new element in the 
Middle East when Senator Bourke B. Hickenlooper, the con- 
servative Republican from Iowa, interrupted testily. "I think 
the Israelis have just lied to us like horse thieves on this thing," 
Hickenlooper said. "They have completely distorted, misrepre- 
sented, and falsified the facts in the past. I think it is very 
serious ... to have them perform in this manner in connec- 
tion with this very definite production reactor facility which 
they have been secretly building, and which they have consis- 


tently, and with a completely straight face, denied to us they 
were building." Hickenlooper knew what he was talking 
about: at the time he was chairman of the Joint Committee on 
Atomic Energy. 

The powerful senator also knew that he was just blowing off 
steam in a secret hearing. No one in the lame-duck Eisenhower 
administration was going to do anything more to take on Israel. 
"I'm not going to ask you as secretary of state to answer," 
Hickenlooper added limply. "I hope I am wrong." 

Dimona would be left for the New Frontier of John F. Ken- 


Dual Loyalty 

Lewis Strauss, John McCone's predecessor as chair- 
man of the Atomic Energy Commission, was the epitome of the 
1950s Cold Warrior, an American booster who was adamantly 
opposed to the spread of nuclear weapons. Strauss certainly 
knew as much about Dimona as anybody in the intelligence 
community by the time he left the AEC in 1958. There is no 
evidence, however, that he raised questions about the Israeli 
weapons program while in government; nor was he known to 
have ever discussed Dimona after leaving office. He most cer- 
tainly did not tell McCone, a devout Roman Catholic, about it. 

Strauss chose not to talk about the Israeli nuclear program 
because, as a Jew with deep feelings about the Holocaust, he 
approved of it. His strong private feelings about Israel and its 
need for security were in sharp contrast to his public image of 
a thoroughly assimilated Jew who offended many — and amused 
others — by insisting that his name be pronounced "Straws." 

A conservative investment banker from Virginia who rose to 
admiral in the Navy Reserves during World War II, Strauss 
viewed America's nuclear arsenal as essential to survival 
against the Soviet Union; those who disagreed with him were 
not merely wrong, they were Communist dupes. He had left 
his Wall Street firm after the war to serve until 1950 as one of 
the original members of the Atomic Energy Commission, an 
independent federal agency set up to be custodian of America's 
nuclear materials, just as the Army's Manhattan Engineering 
District had been administratively in charge of Oppenheimer's 
secret work in Los Alamos. Strauss and his five fellow commis- 
sioners now found themselves the proprietors of all fissionable 
materials; they also were responsible for operating the nation's 


nuclear reactors and developing atomic bombs. Civilian control 
of the nuclear arsenal was so total that the commission initially 
did not tell the military either the number or the yield of the 
bombs being manufactured, creating havoc with the Joint 
Chiefs of Staff's early nuclear war planning. (The Department 
of Energy is in charge of nuclear weapons production today.) 

Strauss quickly emerged as the strongman of the commis- 
sion, and he became even more powerful in 1953 when Eisen- 
hower asked him to return to the AEC as its chairman. Strauss 
supported loyalty oaths for citizens with access to nuclear in- 
formation. He was insistent on continued nuclear testing and 
publicly took issue with those who claimed that fallout from 
the tests was dangerous to human health. He also fought 
against attempts by the Eisenhower administration to negotiate 
a nuclear test ban treaty or any other nuclear arms agreement 
with the Soviet Union. Strauss sided with those in the govern- 
ment and Congress who sought to prevent the passing of weap- 
ons information to the European allies in fear that the Soviet 
bloc would gain access to it. 

At the same time, he championed Atoms for Peace, the Ei- 
senhower administration program that called for America's al- 
lies to be provided with American nuclear technology and 
nuclear fuel — under international safeguards — to promote the 
peaceful use of atomic energy. The assumption, which turned 
out to be dreadfully wrong, was that smaller nations, once sup- 
plied with the enriched uranium or plutonium needed to drive 
a nuclear power plant, would have no incentive or desire to 
develop nuclear weapons. Strauss was, not surprisingly, a pro- 
ponent of private enterprise and worked hard to ensure that 
industry — and not the government — would be permitted to 
build and operate nuclear power plants. 

The AEC commissioner became best known to most Ameri- 
cans, however, for his dislike of J. Robert Oppenheimer, who 
had sparked a furor in the early 1950s by calling on the United 
States to abate the arms race by forgoing the hydrogen bomb. 
In 1954, Strauss led a bitter and successful fight to strip Op- 
penheimer of his security clearance; the hearings, which even- 
tually centered on Oppenheimer's loyalty and integrity, 
captivated the nation. Strauss's activities against Oppenheimer 


were not always in the open; evidence subsequently was re- 
vealed showing that Strauss had directed the FBI to monitor 
Oppenheimer's movements and tap his telephone, including 
calls to his attorney, in an effort to make sure that the clearance 
would be denied. 

Strauss's tactics and his prickly public demeanor ensured 
that he would never be well liked, despite his playing a major 
role in American nuclear policy until his death in 1974, at age 
seventy-seven. Even close associates viewed him as aloof, arro- 
gant, and calculating; many others viewed his demand that he 
be called "Straws" as a sign that he was defensive about being 
Jewish. None of this seemed to matter to Dwight Eisenhower, 
who trusted his judgment and would later describe him as 
among the "towering governmental figures" of Western civili- 
zation. Eisenhower offered him a series of top jobs after Strauss 
decided in 1958 to leave the AEC — as secretary of state and 
White House chief of staff, both of which Strauss refused — and 
finally got him to agree to become secretary of commerce. The 
1959 confirmation hearings were a disaster — Strauss was caught 
being less than candid with the Senate Commerce Committee 
— and led to a humiliating rejection. He was the only cabinet 
nominee not to be confirmed during Eisenhower's two terms, 
and only the eighth such rejection in American history. 

Strauss remained undaunted in his hostility to the Soviet 
Union after leaving public life, telling a congressional panel 
during hearings on the Kennedy administration's proposed nu- 
clear test ban, "I'm not sure that the reduction of [U.S.-USSR] 
tension is necessarily a good thing." He also continued to advo- 
cate the use of atomic energy, and in 1964 made a visit to Israel 
— apparently his first — to consult with the government on a 
proposed nuclear-powered water desalinization plant. 

At some point in his AEC career, Strauss, who attended most 
of the international conferences on the peaceful uses of the 
atom, met and befriended his Israeli counterpart, Ernst David 
Bergmann. It was a relationship shared with few; neither 
Strauss's biographer nor his son, Lewis, who has had access to 
all of his father's personal papers, knew that the two had met. 

The friendship with Bergmann provides the strongest evi- 
dence of Strauss's sympathy for the Israeli nuclear weapons 


program. In the fall of 1966, Strauss used his influence to get 
Bergmann a two-month appointment as a visiting fellow at the 
prestigious Institute for Advanced Studies in Princeton. 
Strauss, who never graduated from college, had joined the in- 
stitute's board of trustees during World War II, and he contin- 
ued to be one of its major contributors and fund-raisers. The 
institute rarely dealt with chemists — its fellows are physicists 
and mathematicians — but the rules were bent for Strauss. Berg- 
mann was a bitter man at that point; he had been forced to 
resign his posts at the defense ministry and as head of the Is- 
raeli Atomic Energy Commission after his continued objec- 
tions to Prime Minister Levi Eshkol's decision — in part 
because of pressure from President Lyndon B. Johnson — to de- 
lay full-scale nuclear weapons production. 

"Strauss had nudged me about Bergmann," recalled Carl 
Kaysen, then the institute's newly appointed director. u He told 
me he was a very distinguished scientist." It was only after 
Bergmann arrived, Kaysen added, that he learned who he was 
and what he did. Bergmann wasn't very busy, and u he would 
come by and talk to me. It became clear that he and Strauss 
were close, and also clear that he was working on [the Israeli 
nuclear] weapons program. He was very relaxed about it." It 
was also obvious that Bergmann was telling Kaysen all that he 
had told Strauss. Kaysen, a distinguished political economist 
who had been deputy assistant to the President for national 
security affairs, wasn't surprised to learn that Israel was inter- 
ested in nuclear bombs, but it was a jolt to realize that Strauss 
— seemingly so ambivalent about his Jewishness and so op- 
posed to any spread of nuclear weapons technology — privately 
was in favor of a nuclear-armed Israel. 

Perhaps because Strauss's political life was so mired in turbu- 
lence, the public and the press never had a chance to get more 
than a glimpse of his private feelings about being Jewish and 
his guilt about not doing more in the 1930s to save Jews caught 
up in the Holocaust. 

There was really no secret about his Jewishness — Strauss had 
been a leader since 1938 of Congregation Emanu-El, the largest 
and most prominent Reform synagogue in New York City. In 


1957, Eisenhower had briefly toyed with the idea of naming him 
secretary of defense, but decided that his Jewishness would 
cause too many problems with the Arab nations in the Middle 
East. Yet Strauss's activities on behalf of a Jewish homeland 
apparently were not known, not even to his close associates in 
the Atomic Energy Commission. In his memoirs, published in 
1962, Strauss wrote bitterly about the Nazi Holocaust and those 
— including himself — who did not do enough: "The years from 
1933 to the outbreak of World War II will ever be a nightmare to 
me, and the puny efforts I made to alleviate the tragedies were 
utter failures, save in a few individual cases — pitifully few." 

In 1933, Strauss had been asked by the American Jewish Com- 
mittee to attend an international conference in London on the 
Jewish plight. There he met Dr. Chaim Weizmann and listened 
as the conferees agreed that an "astronomical sum" of money 
from the United States must be raised to help resettle what 
could be millions of Jews. Strauss, then fervently opposed to a 
Jewish state in Palestine, was the only delegate to raise his 
voice in dissent during the conference, a position he came to 
regret. Six years later, Strauss would spend much time and 
effort in an unsuccessful attempt to convince the British gov- 
ernment to donate a large chunk of colonial Africa for resettle- 
ment by European refugees, Jews and non-Jews alike. With the 
Nazi blitzkrieg only months away, money was no longer an 
object: Strauss and his American colleagues, who included Ber- 
nard Baruch, the financier, were agreed that as much as $300 
million could be raised.* It was too late; Strauss's strong feel- 
ings about that failure — and the failure of world leadership — 
are explicit in his memoir: "The tidal wave of war swept over 
the continents and across the ocean and a world in shock closed 

* The goal was to convince the British to cede a tract of land in Kenya, Tanganyika 
(now Tanzania), or northern Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe). Strauss carried a letter to 
London from Baruch in the late summer of 1939 noting that the land to be ceded in 
Africa could be "cleaned up with modern equipment. The world has not always been 
as clean as it is now. Our own country was full of morasses. Panama and Cuba were 
cleaned up, and Africa can be cleaned up, too. . . . [I]n this new land there would be a 
place for tens of millions and they would be the best, the strongest and the most 
courageous peoples. . . ." Missing from the Baruch-Strauss proposal is any thought or 
concern about the Africans who lived in the areas to be ceded. Any such resettlement 
would have inevitably resulted in internal conflict similar to that raging then — and 
now — between the Israelis and those Palestinians who were ousted from their home- 
lands by the Zionist movement. 


its eyes, figuratively and literally, to the plight of the unfortu- 
nate beings who were engulfed."* 

Like many Jews, Strauss remained hostile to Zionism all of 
his life, but he won the confidence of his colleagues in the Is- 
raeli Atomic Energy Commission by publicly joining them in 
prayer in Geneva during the 1955 United Nations Conference 
on the Peaceful Uses of Atomic Energy, at the time the largest 
international scientific conference ever held. More than fifteen 
hundred delegates from seventy nations, including Israel, 
whose delegation was led by Ernst Bergmann, took part. 
Moshe Sharett, then foreign minister, received a full report — as 
he noted in a diary entry for September 18, 1955 — from a dep- 
uty, who characteristically thought it important to tell Sharett 
that at least three hundred of the delegates were Jewish. De- 
spite that large number, Sharett wrote, when the Jewish com- 
munity of Geneva arranged for a special Friday-night service, 
"present only were the Jewish delegation [to the conference] 
and the head of the U.S. delegation, Admiral Strauss." 

* Neither Strauss nor the CIA's Dino Brugioni knew it at the time, of course, but 
reconnaissance aircraft of the Mediterranean Allied Air Force and the Fifteenth U.S. 
Air Force repeatedly overflew and photographed the Nazi crematoriums at Auschwitz- 
Birkenau in Poland in the last year of the war, where twelve thousand Jews and gypsies 
were being murdered daily by 1944. The death camps were about five miles from an 
I.G. Farben synthetic oil and rubber complex that was bombed four times in World 
War II. In 1978, Brugioni and Robert Poirier, a CIA colleague, noticed that the camps 
were in direct alignment with the reconnaissance path for the Farben complex. Bru- 
gioni knew from his own experiences that reconnaissance cameras were always turned 
on well before the target was reached. Were there aerial photos of the camps buried in 
Pentagon World War II archives? In a subsequent essay, Brugioni wrote: "We found 
that the extermination complex had been photographed at least thirty times. Analyzing 
the photographs, we could see the four large complexes of gas chamber and crematori- 
ums. . . . Bodies were being buried in trenches or burned in large open pits. Some of 
the photos showed victims being marched to their deaths, while others showed prison- 
ers being processed for slave labour." The photographs were invaluable as a historical 
record — the Nazis had forbidden any photography while the camps were in operation 
— and President Jimmy Carter personally presented a monograph based on them to the 
President's Commission on the Holocaust. During the war, Brugioni added, there was 
no historical or social background that would have enabled Air Force photo interpret- 
ers, intent on targeting the I.G. Farben plant, to understand what they were seeing: 
"Anytime a line of people near a building were seen in a picture, it was usually labeled 
'mess hall.' " There were other factors that prevented a close study of the camp photo- 
graphs at the time, insisted Brugioni, most significantly the intense intelligence needs 
of the June 1944 D-Day invasion of Europe, which resulted in heavy workloads for all 
Allied photo interpreters. Allied warplanes also were attempting to break the back of 
the Luftwaffe in late 1944 by heavy raids on all of the synthetic fuel plants in Germany, 
Brugioni said, creating yet another demand for photo interpretation and bomb damage 


Strauss, nonetheless, worked hard while in Washington at 
reining in his intense feelings about being Jewish and about the 
Holocaust, although many of his former subordinates from the 
AEC remarked in interviews about his unrelenting hostility to 
Germans and his reluctance to deal with Germans on any is- 
sue. Yet the longtime AEC official Myron Kratzer, who is also 
Jewish, did not find out until Strauss had left the AEC that the 
former chairman followed the tradition of fasting during Yom 
Kippur, the holiest Jewish holiday. Strauss had been asked by 
Eisenhower after his retirement to head the American delega- 
tion to an international meeting in Vienna, and on Yom Kip- 
pur, Kratzer recalled, "Strauss did not show up. He simply 
closed himself in his room on that day." 

Strauss's background and his strong feelings about the Holo- 
caust cannot be disregarded in analyzing why he did not tell 
anyone — especially John McCone — about Dimona. Fair or not, 
the issue of "dual loyalty" — exemplified by Strauss's actions — 
has been a very real concern to the American intelligence com- 
munity since the creation of Israel in 1948. American Jews, for 
example, were routinely barred for many years from dealing 
with Israeli issues inside CIA headquarters; none of the early 
station chiefs or agents assigned to Israel was Jewish. One Jew 
who served decades later in a high position in the CIA angrily 
acknowledged that when he arrived, "every fucking Jew in the 
CIA was in accounting or legal." The official wasn't quite 
right, but even those few Jews who did get to the top, such as 
Edward W. Proctor, who served as deputy director for intelli- 
gence in the mid-1970s, were not given access to all of the sensi- 
tive files in connection with Israel. Jews also were excluded 
from Hebrew language training (at one time called "special 
Arabic") in the National Security Agency; such training, of 
course, is a prerequisite for being assigned to NSA field sta- 
tions that intercept Israeli communications. There was a flat 
ban in the Navy communications intelligence agency (known 
as the Naval Security Group) on the assignment of a Jew to a 
Middle East issue. 

There was — and still is — a widespread belief among Ameri- 
can foreign service officers that any diplomatic reporting criti- 


cal of Israel would somehow be delivered within days to the 
Israeli embassy in Washington. In 1963 the Kennedy adminis- 
tration informally agreed with Israel that neither country 
would spy on or conduct espionage activities against the other. 
The agreement was sought by American officials, a former 
Kennedy aide recalled, in an attempt to limit the extent of Is- 
raeli penetration of America. 

The truth is that Jews and non-Jews alike looked the other 
way when it came to Israel's nuclear capability. The notion of 
dual loyalty solely as a Jewish problem is far too narrow; the 
Jewish survivors who became Israelis, with their incredible 
travails and sufferings during World War II, had and still have 
enormous appeal to Americans of all backgrounds. The pri- 
mary effect of "dual loyalty" has been a form of self-censorship 
that has kept the United States government from dealing ratio- 
nally and coherently with the strategic and political issues 
raised by a nuclear-armed Israel. The issue is not whether rules 
or laws have been broken, but that very few officials who sup- 
ported Israel, Jewish or not, have used their position to try to 
obtain a complete and accurate picture of the Israeli nuclear 
program. And no one tried to stop it. Those few government 
bureaucrats in the nonproliferation field who even tried to 
learn all there was to learn about Dimona were often accused 
of being "zealots" — and thus not fully trustworthy. 

Yet, being Jewish inevitably raised questions, even among 
the most fair-minded of men. Dino Brugioni briefed Strauss 
regularly on U-2 nuclear intelligence, but found him inscruta- 
ble when it came to information on the Israeli nuclear reactor: 
"I never knew what he was thinking; never understood him. 
Fd get the reaction 'That's all right.' " Brugioni had his own 
reasons for wondering about Strauss. He knew there was evi- 
dence inside the CIA suggesting that American and European 
Jews had been directly involved in the financing and construc- 
tion of Dimona from the start. "There was a fervor, especially 
among New York Jews," Brugioni added. "The attitude was 
'You had to protect Israel,' and anybody [in the intelligence 
community] who did not suffered." 

In interviews for this book with senior officials of the Ameri- 
can nuclear weapons program — men similar to Lewis Strauss, 


who spent part or all of their life making bombs — none ex- 
pressed any doubt about Israel's nuclear ambitions. Most told 
of close personal friendships with Israeli physicists who were 
working on the Israeli weapons program. No one with the so- 
phistication and expertise of Lewis Strauss could have had any 
question about the significance of a secret reactor in the Negev. 
His widow, Alice, still spry in 1991 at the age of eighty-eight, 
acknowledged that her husband, who was very closemouthed 
about his work, "would have approved of Israel trying to de- 
fend itself. No question of that." Strauss also had to know that 
a Jewish nuclear physicist named Raymond Fox had created 
high-level consternation by emigrating to Israel in 1957 from 
California, where he had access to weapons design information 
at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, the nuclear 
research facility operated by the University of California for 
the Atomic Energy Commission. Fox's secrets could be invalu- 
able to the Israelis at Dimona. 

Strauss's failure to discuss Dimona with John McCone may 
have been done in the belief that he had an obligation to ensure 
that what happened to the Jews of Europe under Hitler could 
not happen again. Perhaps he thought he was atoning for what 
he did not do, or could not do, to help the Jews of Europe 
before World War II. Similar choices were made over the next 
thirty years by Jews and non-Jews in the American govern- 
ment, who looked the other way when it came to Dimona. 
Were they guilty of a double standard, as Dino Brugioni and 
others in the intelligence community suggest? Did Lewis 
Strauss, who so eagerly assumed the worst when it came to the 
loyalty of men such as J. Robert Oppenheimer, fail to fulfill the 
obligations of his office in terms of the known intelligence on 
Dimona and his obligation to tell his successor about it? 

Many American Jews, perhaps understandably, believe the 
question of "dual loyalty" is an issue that should never be 
raised in public. They fear that any discussion of Jewish sup- 
port for Israel at the expense of the United States would feed 
anti-Semitism; the fear seems to be that non-Jews are convinced 
that any Jewish support for Israel precludes primary loyalty to 
the United States. A second issue, in terms of American Jewish 


support for Israel, is that any public accounting of Israel's nu- 
clear capacity would trigger renewed fears among Arab na- 
tions of a worldwide Jewish conspiracy and a redoubling of 
Arab efforts to get the bomb. 

Weighing against those concerns are several questions. Can 
the world afford to pretend that Israel is not a nuclear power 
because to do otherwise would raise difficult issues? Can any 
international agreement to limit the spread of nuclear weapons 
be enforced if Israel's bombs are not fully accounted for? Can 
the Arab nations truly be expected to ignore Israel's possession 
of atomic weapons simply because the weapons are not publi- 
cized? Should Israel, because of its widespread and emotional 
support in America, be held to a different moral standard than 
Pakistan or North Korea or South Africa? 

Many senior nonproliferation officials in the American gov- 
ernment were convinced by the early 1990s that the Middle 
East remained the one place where nuclear weapons might be 
used. "Israel has a well-thought-out nuclear strategy and, if suf- 
ficiently threatened, they will use it," said one expert who has 
been involved in government studies on the nuclear issue in 
the Middle East for two decades. 

Some of Strauss's former subordinates in the AEC find it diffi- 
cult to believe that his Jewishness would have been the reason 
that Strauss would or would not tell John McCone about 
Dimona. Algie A. Wells, who was director of international af- 
fairs for the AEC in mid-1958, at the time McCone replaced 
Strauss, suggested that there were far more trivial reasons for 
Strauss to have ignored his statutory responsibility as AEC 
chairman: "Why would Strauss have told McCone? The men 
weren't close. They both had colossal egos. I can't imagine 
them being buddy-buddy and having a drink together." 

In Wells's view, whether Strauss did or did not tell McCone 
wasn't that important. Wells had been in Israel in 1958, he re- 
called, and learned then — as had any government official who 
chose to do so — that Israel was building a nuclear reactor. If 
McCone was surprised to learn about the reactor in late i960, 
added Wells, "he shouldn't have been." 


A Presidential Struggle 

Abraham Feinberg shared Lewis Strauss's belief in op- 
erating behind the scenes on behalf of Israel, but Feinberg op- 
erated in a way Strauss could not — with single-mindedness and 
abandon. Feinberg, a New Yorker who made his fortune in the 
hosiery and apparel business, had helped bankroll Harry S. 
Truman's seemingly doomed 1948 presidential campaign; by 
the presidential campaign of i960 he was perhaps the most im- 
portant Jewish fund-raiser for the Democratic Party. There 
was nothing subtle in his message: the dollars he collected were 
meant to ensure continued Democratic Party support for 

Feinberg also had been a "player" — to use his word — who 
shared the early dreams of his good friend Ernst David Berg- 
mann of a nuclear-armed Israel. He served publicly as presi- 
dent of the Israel Bond Organization, while privately helping 
to raise some of the many millions of dollars needed to build 
the controversial reactor and reprocessing plant at Dimona. 
Feinberg accepted the fact that the expanding and expensive 
operations at Dimona had to be financed outside of the normal 
Israeli budget process; there were too many critics of the nu- 
clear program inside and outside Israel to raise money any 
other way. The unwanted publicity at the end of the Eisen- 
hower administration had only added to Ben-Gurion's and 
Shimon Peres's determination to protect the secret. Feinberg 
was more than just a fund-raiser in all this; he became an inside 
advocate for Ben-Gurion and Peres as President Kennedy, who 
brought in John McCone as director of central intelligence in 
September 1961, established himself as firmly opposed to the 
Israeli bomb. There was a particularly close association with 


Peres: "He came to me often for money. If he gave the assign- 
ment to me, I helped him." 

Feinberg remains proud of his support for Israel and its se- 
cret weapons program. His most pitched battle on behalf of 
Israel came in the early days of the Kennedy administration 
when he successfully helped fight off the initial Kennedy insis- 
tence that an American inspection team be permitted full and 
unfettered access to Dimona. Feinberg's success was rooted in 
the American political process. "My path to power," he ex- 
plains, "was cooperation in terms of what they needed — cam- 
paign money." 

Feinberg's first taste of political power had come in the wan- 
ing days of the Truman campaign against Thomas E. Dewey, 
the New York Republican governor who was seemingly run- 
ning away with the 1948 election. "From the beginning of my 
political affiliation with Truman," he explained, "I felt it was 
the duty of every Jew to help Israel." Feinberg, as a member of 
a Democratic campaign finance committee, was invited to a 
White House meeting with the President, who had won the 
worldwide admiration of Jews for his decision to recognize the 
State of Israel earlier in the year. "If I had to bet money," 
Feinberg recalled Truman saying, "I'd bet on myself — if I 
could go across the country by train." At least $100,000 would 
be needed, the President said. Feinberg told Truman's aides 
that he would be able to guarantee the money by the end of the 
day, and subsequently he arranged for Truman's whistle-stop 
train campaign to be met by local Jewish leaders at each stop 
"to be refueled" — that is, provided with additional contribu- 
tions as needed. 

Among Feinberg's prize possessions is a seven-page hand- 
written letter of thanks and praise from Truman. Feinberg esti- 
mates that he and his Jewish colleagues raised "in the 
neighborhood of $400,000" during the 1948 whistle-stop cam- 
paign. Truman understood the rules and at some later point 
discussed naming Feinberg ambassador to Israel. Feinberg de- 
clined: "I told him no Jew should be ambassador to Israel until 
the peace was solved." 

Feinberg's account of his bankrolling of Harry Truman is 


found in none of the contemporary histories of that period,* 
and — like some of his later special fund-raising activities for 
Dimona — cannot be fully verified. Strong evidence is available, 
however, that Feinberg's role was as pivotal as he suggests. For 
example, Clark Clifford, the eminent Washington attorney who 
was a Truman aide and poker-playing crony, has a vivid recol- 
lection of a crucial Feinberg intervention during the whistle- 
stop campaign. Clifford was not involved in Democratic Party 
fund-raising, but he did know that midway through the train 
trip, the presidential campaign was out of money. Keeping the 
campaign alive, he recalled, was "as difficult a task as anybody 
ever had. We couldn't find anyone who thought we'd win." 
Disaster loomed in Oklahoma City when one of the radio net- 
works — this was the pre-television era — informed the cam- 
paign that it would not nationally broadcast a much-touted 
Truman foreign policy speech unless "it was paid for in ad- 
vance. This put us in shock," Clifford added. "It would have 
been embarrassing beyond measure." Something like $60,000 
in cash was needed — immediately. "Truman thought about 
who he could turn to," continued Clifford. "The fellow he later 
spoke about who came through for him was Abe Feinberg. I 
always gave credit to Abe for saving that particular program 
and saving us that embarrassment. He really came through." 

Feinberg was also active in fund-raising for Adlai E. Steven- 
son, the losing Democratic candidate in 1952 and 1956, and was a 
strong backer of Senator Stuart Symington, Democrat of Mis- 
souri, for the Democratic presidential nomination. (Symington 
would emerge later as an ardent supporter of a nuclear-armed 
Israel and, paradoxically, as author of key Senate legislation to 
limit the spread of such weapons.) He played no role in John 
Kennedy's primary campaign for the Democratic nomination: 
like many Jews, Feinberg was convinced that Kennedy's father 
was anti-Semitic. Joseph P. Kennedy, a self-made millionaire 
and prominent Catholic, had fought against going to war with 
Germany while serving as Franklin D. Roosevelt's ambassador 
to England before World War II. A few weeks after Kennedy's 

* Campaign historians were not the only ones who missed the Feinberg story; none 
of the contemporary daily press or television journalists covering events in 1948 wrote 
about the financial ties between Feinberg and the Truman campaign. 


nomination by the Democrats, however, Feinberg was con- 
tacted by Governor Abraham Ribicoff of Connecticut, who had 
been Kennedy's floor manager during the Democratic conven- 
tion. "I was the only Jew for him," Ribicoff recalled. "And I 
realized that Jews were for anybody but Jack Kennedy. I told 
Kennedy I was going to get in touch with Abe Feinberg, who I 
thought was a key Jew. I arranged a meeting [with Kennedy] in 
Feinberg's apartment in the Hotel Pierre and we invited all the 
leading Jews." About twenty prominent businessmen and fi- 
nanciers showed up.* 

It was a rough session. Kennedy had just returned from a 
brief vacation at the family compound at Hyannis Port, Massa- 
chusetts, and it was a prominent Bostonian, Dewey D. Stone, 
who set the tone with the first question, as recalled by Fein- 
berg: "Jack, everybody knows the reputation of your father 
concerning Jews and Hitler. And everybody knows that the 
apple doesn't fall far from the tree." Kennedy's response was to 
the point: "You know, my mother was part of that tree, too." 
Ribicoff, who would join Kennedy's cabinet, understood the 
message: "The sins of the father shouldn't fall on the son." 
Fortunately for Kennedy, that message was enough for the 
men at Feinberg's apartment. Kennedy had gone upstairs to a 
separate room with Ribicoff to await their judgment, Feinberg 
recalled. The group agreed on an initial contribution of 
$500,000 to the presidential campaign, with more to come. "I 
called him [Kennedy] right away," said Feinberg. "His voice 
broke. He got emotional" with gratitude. 

Kennedy was anything but grateful the next morning in 
describing the session to Charles L. Bartlett, a newspaper col- 
umnist and close friend. He had driven to Bartlett's home in 
northwest Washington and dragged his friend on a walk, where 
he recounted a much different version of the meeting the night 

* Kennedy's social friends and colleagues agreed that Kennedy, like many wealthy 
Irish Catholics of his time, had gone through prep school at Choate and Harvard 
College with few close Jewish friends. One especially close schoolboy friend, according 
to Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr., the presidential biographer, was Alan J. Lerner, with 
whom Kennedy traveled widely as a youth. There were few other Jewish childhood 
friends, as Benjamin C. Bradlee, Jr., the longtime editor of the Washington Post and close 
Kennedy friend, acknowledged: "I don't remember a whole lot of Jewish buddies." 
That changed quickly once Kennedy got into national politics after World War II. 


before. u As an American citizen he was outraged," Bartlett re- 
called, u to have a Zionist group come to him and say: 'We know 
your campaign is in trouble. We're willing to pay your bills if 
you'll let us have control of your Middle East policy.' " Ken- 
nedy, as a presidential candidate, also resented the crudity with 
which he'd been approached. "They wanted control," he an- 
grily told Bartlett. 

Bartlett further recalled Kennedy promising to himself that 
"if he ever did get to be President, he was going to do some- 
thing about it" — a candidate's perennial need for money and 
resulting vulnerability to the demands of those who contrib- 
uted. Kennedy, in fact, kept that promise before the end of his 
first year in office, appointing a bipartisan commission in Octo- 
ber to recommend ways to broaden "the financial base of our 
presidential campaigns." In a statement that was far more 
heartfelt than the public or the press could perceive, he criti- 
cized the current method of financing campaigns as "highly 
undesirable" and "not healthy" because it made candidates "de- 
pendent on large financial contributions of those with special 
interests." Presidential elections, Kennedy declared, were "the 
supreme test of the democratic process" in the United States. 
Kennedy was ahead of his time, however: the campaign financ- 
ing proposals went nowhere.* 

It is impossible to reconcile the differing accounts of Ken- 
nedy's attitude toward the meeting in Feinberg's apartment in 
the Hotel Pierre. But the fact remains that despite Kennedy's 
tough words to Bartlett, Abe Feinberg's influence inside the 
White House was established by the end of Kennedy's first year 
in office, and the young President did little to diminish it over 
the next two years. One factor obviously was political: a higher 
percentage of Jews (81 percent) voted for Kennedy in i960 than 
did Roman Catholics (73 percent); it was the Jewish vote that 
provided Kennedy's narrow plurality of 114,563 votes over 

* The commission, headed by Alexander Heard, then dean of the Graduate School 
at the University of North Carolina, recommended, among other things, the use of 
federal tax credits to encourage political contributions by individuals. The goal was to 
broaden the base of a candidate's financial support and reduce dependence on special- 
interest groups and the wealthy. In 1962, Kennedy submitted five draft bills to reform 
presidential campaign financing to Congress; none survived. Kennedy tried again in 
1963, submitting two more draft bills to Congress; again neither survived. 


Nixon. Feinberg got a specific reward after the election: his 
lawyer brother, Wilfred, was given a federal judgeship by the 
President.* "Feinberg only wanted one thing — to put his 
brother on the federal bench," RibicofF recalled. "I sat in on the 
meeting with Kennedy and recommended that he do it. The 
President said, 'Look, Abe, when all is said and done, the only 
Jew who was for me [early in the campaign] was Abe Fein- 
berg.' " 

The issue of Jewish political power and the Israeli bomb was 
complicated during these years by the fact that John Kennedy 
was intellectually and emotionally committed to a halt in the 
spread of nuclear weapons. Carl Kaysen, who moved from the 
Harvard faculty to the National Security Council in 1961, re- 
called: "There were two subjects that you could get the Presi- 
dent started on and he'd talk for hours. One was the gold 
standard, the other was nonproliferation." The political expe- 
diencies that forced him to be ambivalent about Dimona had to 
be frustrating. Kennedy eventually agreed to a series of face- 
saving American inspections of the Israeli nuclear facilities, 
although the label "inspection" hardly does justice to what the 
Israelis would permit. 

Kennedy's complicated feelings about Jewish political power 
and the Israeli issue were summarized in his appointment of 
former campaign aide Myer (Mike) Feldman as the presidential 
point man for Jewish and Israeli affairs. The President viewed 
Feldman, whose strong support for Israel was widely known, 
as a necessary evil whose highly visible White House position 
was a political debt that had to be paid. Feldman recalled being 
summoned by the President the day after the inauguration and 

* Wilfred Feinberg, a legal scholar who had been editor in chief of the Columbia Law 
Review, served from 1961 to 1966 as a federal judge in the Southern District of New York. 
In 1966, President Lyndon Johnson, anxious to do something for his good friend Abe 
Feinberg, promoted Wilfred to the United States Court of Appeals for the Second 
Circuit. To do so, he had to override the recommendation of Senator Robert F. Ken- 
nedy of New York, the late President's younger brother, who had resigned as attorney 
general to run, successfully, for the Senate. Robert Kennedy pushed for the nomina- 
tion of Edward Weinfeld, widely considered to be the most distinguished jurist on the 
lower federal court, but Kennedy understood that he could never match Abe 
Feinberg's influence with Johnson. "It was pure politics," recalled Peter B. Edelman, 
then a senior Kennedy aide, "but not one of those cases where politics produced a poor 
judge." Wilfred Feinberg served with distinction and went on to become chief judge of 
the Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit in 1980. 


authorized to monitor all of the State Department and White 
House cable traffic on the Middle East: "I said, 'Mr. President, 
I come with a strong bias toward Israel.' He told me, 'That's 
why I want you to look at them.' " Feldman's special relation- 
ship and his special access created havoc inside the White 
House, as Kennedy had to know it would. The President's 
most senior advisers, most acutely McGeorge Bundy, the na- 
tional security adviser, desperately sought to cut Feldman out 
of the flow of Middle East paperwork; the result often was 
bureaucratic chaos. "The White House staff under Kennedy 
was not harmonious," acknowledged Kaysen, who is Jewish. 
"Bundy was very suspicious of Feldman, and anxious about me 
and Bob Komer" — another Jewish National Security Council 
staff member, assigned to monitor South Asia. "He worried 
about us handling Israeli issues."* Robert W. Komer, who 
would later run the pacification program in South Vietnam for 
Lyndon Johnson, recalled the tension: "Mac Bundy had a 
standing rule. He sent nothing to Feldman, because Feldman 
was getting involved in issues in which he had no business. It 
was hard to tell the difference between what Feldman said and 
what the Israeli ambassador said." 

The White House staff aides might well have been taking 
their cues on treating Feldman from their young President. 
Kennedy, having provided special access for Feldman, couldn't 
resist making wisecracks behind his back. Charles Bartlett re- 
called Kennedy interrupting a pleasant moment in Hyannis 
Port by pointedly remarking — it was a Saturday morning, the 
traditional time for synagogue services — "I imagine Mike's 
having a meeting of the Zionists in the cabinet room." An 
equally cynical view of Feldman was publicly expressed by 
Robert Kennedy in an interview published in 1988 by the John 
F. Kennedy Library. Speaking of Feldman, Kennedy noted that 

* Jerome B. Wiesner, the President's science adviser, who also was Jewish, had a 
different concern: he was totally cut out of the intelligence about Dimona and "as- 
sumed" that Ben-Gurion had requested that he not deal with that issue in the White 
House. Wiesner, who played a major role on disarmament issues for the Kennedy 
administration, had served as a board member of the Weizmann Institute and repeat- 
edly ran into Ben-Gurion on visits to Israel. "Ben-Gurion would always ask me two 
questions," Wiesner recalled: "Can computers think? And should we build a nuclear 
weapon? I'd always say no." That answer, Wiesner thought, marked him as a liberal in 
Ben-Gurion's eyes and limited his access. 


his older brother, the President, had valued Feldman's work 
but added: "His major interest was Israel rather than the 
United States." 

Feldman had no illusions about the backbiting inside the 
White House, but his obvious influence made it all tolerable: he 
continued to operate as Kennedy's special envoy to the Israeli 
government on a variety of sensitive issues, including nuclear 
weapons. He had been allowed to visit Dimona in 1962 and 
knew firsthand, as those around the President only suspected, 
that Israel was intent on building the bomb. 

Israel's bomb, and what to do about it, became a White House 
fixation, part of the secret presidential agenda that would re- 
main hidden for the next thirty years. None of the prominent 
John F. Kennedy presidential biographies, including those 
written by insiders Arthur Schlesinger and Theodore C. So- 
rensen, who was the President's special counsel and chief 
speechwriter, say anything about a nuclear-armed Israel or 
even mention Abe Feinberg. The U-2 intelligence collected by 
the CIA's Arthur Lundahl and Dino Brugioni continued to be 
treated as higher than top-secret, leaving a huge gap in knowl- 
edge between the bureaucracy and the men at the top. There 
were inevitably farcical results. 

Shortly after Kennedy's inauguration, the State Department 
appointed William R. Crawford, a young foreign service of- 
ficer, as director of Israeli affairs. Early on, Crawford recalled, 
the Air Force attache in Israel managed to snap yet another 
long-range photograph of the reactor dome at Dimona. "It was 
as if there was no previous information," Crawford said. "As if 
the whole thing was a total surprise to the White House, intel- 
ligence community, and so forth." Meetings were held on the 
critical new intelligence. "This was very hot stuff. We decided 
that this was not what Israel was telling us." 

Crawford was asked to draft a letter for the President to Ben- 
Gurion. The letter emphasized that America's worldwide posi- 
tion on nonproliferation would "be compromised if a state re- 
garded as being dependent on us, as is Israel, pursues an 
independent course." Other key points, Crawford said, "were a 
demand for inspection and the right to convey the results to 


Nasser." The idea was to reassure the Egyptian president that 
Dimona was not a weapons plant and to prevent Egypt from 
beginning its own nuclear research. The inspection of Dimona 
was to be carried out by an independent team of experts from 
the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the nuclear 
safeguarding agency based in Vienna; Israel had agreed in prin- 
ciple to permit the IAEA to replace the United States in the 
twice-a-year monitoring of its small research reactor at Nahal 
Soreq. "I drafted it very carefully," Crawford recalled. "It was 
the most important letter of my life at this point in my career." 
The letter was forwarded to the office of George Ball, then the 
under secretary of state, rewritten,* and dispatched. "In due 
course," recalled Crawford, "in comes a long, long reply from 
Ben-Gurion, pages and pages." Ben-Gurion's letter to Kennedy 
has not been made public, either by the United States or by 
Israel, but Crawford, nearly thirty years later, had no trouble 
recalling its tone. "It was very hard to see what he was saying. 
It seemed evasive; didn't say he was going the nuclear route: 
'We're a tiny nation surrounded by enemies,' et cetera, et 
cetera. There may have been an allusion to a nuclear umbrella 
— language like 'Were we able to rely on the United States,' et 
cetera." In that first exchange, Crawford said, Ben-Gurion did 
not agree to the IAEA inspection of Dimona. 

Israel's bomb program, and the continuing exchange of letters 
about it, would complicate, and eventually poison, Kennedy's 
relationship with David Ben-Gurion. The Israeli prime minis- 
ter had been rebuffed in seeking a state visit to Washington but, 
with the aid of Abe Feinberg, contrived a May 1961 visit to the 
United States. The specific occasion was an evening convoca- 
tion in his honor at Brandeis University near Boston. Feinberg 
managed to get the President to agree to a private meeting with 
Ben-Gurion at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in New York. A ner- 
vous Kennedy asked Abe Feinberg to sit in. Feinberg refused, 

* Ball's office held on to the letter for days, Crawford said, eventually provoking a 
complaint from the White House. Crawford asked a friend on Ball's staff to check into 
it and was told that "Mr. Ball wants me to understand that this letter sounds as if it had 
been translated from the original in Sanskrit." When Ball's rewritten version finally 
emerged, Crawford said, it had the same message but "in JFK prose." Crawford was 


but agreed to make the introductions. Ben-Gurion similarly 
was anxious about the session, in fear that the continued Amer- 
ican pressure over Israel's nuclear weapons project would lead 
to an unwanted flare-up. Dimona already was on politically 
shaky ground among the various factions inside Israel, and a 
flap between Ben-Gurion and Kennedy on the issue could be 
devastating to the concept of a nuclear-armed Israel. This con- 
cern had prompted the Israeli government to assign physicist 
Amos Deshalit to accompany two equally distinguished Ameri- 
can physicists, I. I. Rabi of Columbia University and Eugene 
Wigner of Princeton, to visit the still-incomplete reactor at 
Dimona sometime early in 1961. Neither reported seeing evi- 
dence of a weapons facility.* 

The meeting with Kennedy was a major disappointment for 
the Israeli prime minister, and not only because of the nuclear 
issue. "He looked to me like a twenty-five-year-old boy," Ben- 
Gurion later told his biographer. "I asked myself: 'How can a 
man so young be elected President?' At first, I did not take him 
seriously." (Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev, who met Ken- 
nedy a month later at the Vienna summit, also was struck by 
Kennedy's youth and inexperience.) No public record of the 
Kennedy-Ben-Gurion meeting has been released, and it is not 
reliably known what transpired on the nuclear issue. Ben-Gu- 
rion later recalled that he once again asserted that Dimona was 
being constructed solely for research purposes. Kennedy 
brought up the Rabi- Wigner visit to Dimona and expressed 
satisfaction with their conviction that the reactor was designed 
for peaceful purposes. Ben-Gurion was relieved: "For the time 
being, at least, the reactor had been saved." 

Another important summit issue was Egypt. Kennedy was 

* Wigner, who won the Nobel Prize for physics in 1963, was visiting Israel when he 
was asked — seemingly spontaneously — by the Israelis to visit Dimona. He "vaguely" 
recalled, he said in telephone interviews in 1989 and 1991, being accompanied by Rabi, a 
1944 Nobel laureate. "We didn't see much of it," Wigner, who was born in 1902, added. 
"I thought it was practically completed." Israeli scientists already may have begun 
some experimental work, he said: "They played with it." Wigner, who had joined with 
Albert Einstein in urging the United States to begin building the atom bomb before 
World War II, cautioned the author that his memory had faded with age. Rabi, a 
longtime consultant on technical and scientific issues to the United States government, 
died in 1988; neither his wife, friends, nor officials in charge of Columbia University's 
oral history project dealing with his career had information about his visit to Dimona. 


intent on improving relations with the Nasser government, 
and the President outlined his new policy. Ben-Gurion re- 
newed a standing Israeli request for the sale of U.S. Hawk 
surface-to-air missiles: the Hawk was needed to match the ar- 
rival of Soviet-built MiG fighters in Egypt. Kennedy promised 
to look into it. 

The most memorable moment for Ben-Gurion came when 
he was leaving the hotel room. Kennedy suddenly walked him 
back inside to tell him "something important." It was a politi- 
cal message: "I know that I was elected by the votes of Ameri- 
can Jews. I owe them my victory. Tell me, is there something I 
ought to do?" Ben-Gurion had not come to New York to haggle 
with the President about Jewish votes. "You must do whatever 
is good for the free world," he responded. He later told his 
aides: "To me, he looks like a politician." Ben-Gurion, known 
to his associates as B.G., made similar complaints to Abe Fein- 
berg. "There's no way of describing the relationship between 
Jack Kennedy and Ben-Gurion," Feinberg said, "because 
there's no way B.G. was dealing with JFK as an equal, at least 
as far as B.G. was concerned. He had the typical attitude of an 
old-fashioned Jew toward the young. He disrespected him as a 
youth." There was an additional factor: Joseph Kennedy. "B.G. 
could be vicious, and he had such a hatred of the old man." 

Ben-Gurion's complaints about Kennedy and the continuing 
pressure about Dimona unquestionably were also linked to an 
all-important agenda that was remaining on track. In April, a 
Norwegian official named Jens C. Hauge had spent two weeks 
conducting Norway's first — and only — inspection of the heavy 
water that had been sold to Israel. The inspection, closely 
monitored by Ernst Bergmann, couldn't have gone better. 
Dimona was not yet in operation, and the water, still in its 
original shipping barrels, was safely stored near the small and 
totally innocent Nahal Soreq research reactor at Rehovot. 
Hauge's report to the Norwegian foreign ministry was aston- 
ishing in its uncritical acceptance of all of Bergmann's asser- 
tions. "As far as I know," Hauge wrote, "Israel has not 
attempted to keep secret the fact that they are building a reac- 
tor. . . . Professor Bergmann at an earlier point had given in- 


formation to his colleagues in the U.S. about the reactor, but 
Israel had not kept America officially informed about the reac- 
tor. This was possibly the background for the uproar that took 
place in America about the reactor." At another point, Hauge 
quoted Bergmann as explaining that Norway's heavy water 
would be used to power a twenty-four-megawatt "research re- 
actor" that would be a model for a planned much larger power 
reactor. In a second memorandum to the foreign ministry, 
Hauge added: "Israel is interested in keeping the location of 
reactor building quiet and wants any commotion about it 

Two months after the visit with Kennedy, in July 1961, Ben- 
Gurion and his top advisers attended the widely publicized 
launching in the Negev of Israel's first rocket, known as Shavit 
II.* Such military events normally were kept secret, but Mapai 
Party leaders — with general elections scheduled for mid-Au- 
gust — decided to go public after receiving reports that Egypt 
was planning to fire some of its rockets on July 23, the ninth 
anniversary of the coup that had eventually brought Nasser to 
power. The multistage, solid-propellant Shavit II, which 
soared fifty miles into the upper atmosphere, was said to be 
designed to measure upper atmospheric winds as part of a se- 
ries of experiments for the Israeli Atomic Energy Commission. 
Ernst Bergmann subsequently told a scientific journal: "We are 
not particularly interested in the prestige of space, but in the 
scientific aspects of it." The American intelligence community 
— and Israel's Arab enemies — got the message: it was only a 
matter of time and money before Israeli developed a missile 
system capable of delivering nuclear warheads. Bergmann had 
created another light bulb for his nuclear lamp. 

Kennedy, despite his remarks to Ben-Gurion, was far from per- 
suaded by the inspections by Rabi and Wigner that Dimona 
was anything but a nuclear weapons production facility. A nu- 

* There was no Shavit I, Shimon Peres told a political rally on the night of the 
launch, because of the possibility that the name would be corrupted to Shavit Aleph, 
since aleph is the first letter of the Hebrew alphabet. Aleph also was an electoral 
symbol for the Mapai Party. If the rocket had been named Shavit I, Peres said, "we 
would be accused of making propaganda." 


clear-armed Israel seemed to be looming, and it could threaten 
Middle East stability as well as the President's strong desire for 
a treaty with the Soviet Union to ban the testing of nuclear 
weapons in the atmosphere. And there was no indication that 
Ben-Gurion, who was admitting nothing, would back off. The 
Israeli prime minister, in subsequent private communications 
to the White House, began to refer to the President as "young 
man"; Kennedy made clear to associates that he found the let- 
ters to be offensive. 

The President's apprehension about the Israeli bomb un- 
doubtedly was a factor in his surprising appointment of John 
McCone to replace Allen Dulles as CIA director in the wake of 
the Bay of Pigs debacle. There was every political reason not to 
appoint him: McCone not only was a prominent Republican 
but had spoken out against the White House's much-desired 
test ban treaty with the Soviet Union. Arthur Schlesinger 
writes that Kennedy, obviously sensitive about his preference, 
invited McCone to a private two-hour meeting u on the pretext 
of asking his views on nuclear testing." There is no public 
record of what the two men discussed, although Ben-Gurion's 
latest annoying letter had arrived only days before and the So- 
viet Union had announced the resumption of nuclear testing, 
ending the informal U.S.-USSR moratorium. In any case, 
McCone subsequently told Walt Elder, his executive assistant 
in the CIA, that Kennedy had complained to him about the fact 
that he was "getting all sorts of conflicting advice on the whole 
range of nuclear issues," including the Israeli bomb. Kennedy 
asked McCone to prepare a written analysis of the issue and 
report back within a few weeks. McCone did so and, upon his 
return, as he told Elder, the President tossed the report aside — 
"Give it to the staff" — and offered him the CIA job. He also 
asked McCone to keep word of his pending appointment 
"quiet. Those liberal bastards in the basement [on Bundy's Na- 
tional Security Council staff] will complain about it." 

Foreseen or not, Kennedy had found a soulmate. McCone 
had his own policy goals, and they meshed closely with the 
young President's, said Elder: "McCone was most adamant 
about American nuclear superiority, but his trinity included 
the Catholic Church and nonproliferation." A nuclear-armed 


Israel did not fit into that vision: "He thought an Israeli bomb 
would lead to escalation and then you could just cross off oil 
from the Middle East for years." There were other virtues, of 
course, that appealed to Kennedy: McCone would join the ad- 
ministration with enormous credibility with the press, with 
the Congress, and especially with Dwight Eisenhower, who 
was quietly going about life in retirement in Gettysburg, Penn- 
sylvania. "Kennedy never took a major foreign policy move 
without checking it out with Eisenhower," recalled Elder, 
who, when he retired from the CIA in 1983, was executive sec- 
retary of the National Foreign Intelligence Board. "He was 
terrified of having Ike on the other side." 

In one of their first meetings after McCone took the job, 
Kennedy complained about the most recent of Ben-Gurion's 
letters, which continued to shrug off the issue of international 
inspection of Dimona, the White House's key demand that had 
been initially articulated by Bill Crawford. Ben-Gurion's letter 
was "a waffle," Walt Elder recalled. "It wasn't strong. Kennedy 
talked to McCone about it and McCone said, 'Write him a stiff 
note. Mention the United States' international obligations, and 
our suspicions of the French. Lay it on the line.' " The Presi- 
dent followed McCone's advice and received what he perceived 
as yet another rude response: "Ben-Gurion in effect said, 'Bug 
off, this is none of your business,' " said Elder, who spent years 
after McCone left the CIA preparing and indexing all of his 
still-classified personal files.* At that point, McCone insisted to 
the President that he could "take care of it. The attaches and 
the State Department can't do it," Elder recalled McCone tell- 
ing the President, referring to the need to get an answer to the 
most important question about Dimona: was there an under- 
ground chemical reprocessing plant at Dimona? "Turn it over 
to me." Kennedy did so, and McCone began a two-track opera- 

The first step was another series of U-2 missions; its far more 

* McCone, said Elder, ended up being very close to Kennedy: "He saw him literally 
whenever he wanted. He would call the White House and say, 'I'm on my way to see 
the President/ " After such meetings, McCone would immediately dictate a detailed 
memorandum to the file, which was eventually made available to Elder for further 
action and safekeeping. 


risky and ambitious counterpart was an attempt to infiltrate 
spies into Dimona and, with luck, into the suspected reproces- 
sing plant. "It was one hell of an operation," Elder said. "Even 
the station chiefs [in Israel and elsewhere in the Middle East] 
didn't know of it. We ran it right out of McCone's office." 
McCone's orders were, in retrospect, almost cavalier, his for- 
mer executive assistant said: McCone, recognizing that the Is- 
raelis were keeping close watch over the American intelligence 
officers inside their country, told his men, "We can't do our job 
without leaving traces. Do the best job you can." Running 
American intelligence operatives inside Israel posed an ex- 
traordinary risk, as McCone and Kennedy had to know: any 
exposure would have led to a violent domestic backlash inside 
America. It also could end the debate about what Israel was, or 
was not, doing at Dimona. 

The operation was not compromised — but it also didn't 
work. The CIA's on-the-ground agents, obviously recruited 
from a foreign country, were unable to get inside. "I could not 
say we had an agent who physically saw a bomb inside 
Dimona," Elder acknowledged. 

The U-2 once again proved that photographs — even sensa- 
tional ones — weren't enough. By December 1961, CIA officials 
had set up a new agency, the National Photo Interpretation 
Center (NPIC), with Arthur Lundahl in charge, and assigned it 
the mission of providing more sophisticated photo intelligence. 
NPIC came through early with a huge photographic mosaic of 
Israel, capturing not only Dimona but all other possible nu- 
clear facilities. "It was as big as two French doors," Elder re- 
called. "Kennedy loved it." The only problem was that the new 
set of photographs did little to move the basic issue: there was 
no way to see underground in Dimona. "McCone said that 
based on his evidence," Elder said, "there is no external evi- 
dence of a nuclear capability. There's no evidence of a weapons 
plant." McCone was still skeptical, Elder added, telling the 
President, "Given their [the Israelis'] attitude toward inspec- 
tion, you can't trust them." 

Dimona remained a major impediment to another of Ken- 
nedy's early foreign policy ambitions — rapprochement with 


Nasser's Egypt. Increased economic aid and a series of private 
letters had led to a warming of relations by mid-1962, and senior 
Egyptian officials were reassuring the White House that they 
also desired improved relations, within the context of 
nonalignment. Nasser, badly rattled by the prospect of a nu- 
clear Israel, had responded to the December i960 relevations 
about Dimona by publicly insisting that Egypt would never 
permit Israel to be its superior; if necessary, he said, Egypt 
would attack and "destroy the base of aggression even at the 
price of four million casualties." The question of Dimona was 
repeatedly raised at Arab League conferences on defense and 
foreign ministry issues during 1961, with no resolution — except 
for a shared Arab determination to build up conventional arms. 
The Kennedy administration reassured the Egyptians that it 
would continue to press until it obtained IAEA inspection 
rights to Dimona, and would provide a summary — with Israel's 
agreement — of the findings to Nasser. 

But securing inspection rights remained impossible. Ben-Gu- 
rion had no intention of permitting a legitimate inspection — 
for obvious reasons. His first line of defense was straightfor- 
ward: political pressure, in the person of Abe Feinberg. "I 
fought the strongest battle of my career to keep them from a 
full inspection," Feinberg recalled. "I violently intervened not 
once but half a dozen times." He had been tipped off about the 
inspection demands by Myer Feldman and relayed his political 
complaints through him; he said he never discussed the matter 
directly with the President. The message was anything but 
subtle: insisting on an inspection of Dimona would result in 
less support in the 1964 presidential campaign. This message, 
Feinberg said, was given directly to Robert S. McNamara, the 
secretary of state, and Paul H. Nitze, then a senior defense 
aide: "I met with them together and said, 'You've got to keep 
your nose out of it.' " 

Nitze, in a subsequent interview, did not recall that meeting, 
but he did remember a later one-on-one confrontation with 
Feinberg over Dimona. The Israelis wanted to purchase ad- 
vanced U.S. fighter aircraft: "I said no, unless they come clean 
about Dimona. Then suddenly this fellow Feinberg comes into 
my office and says right out, 'You can't do that to us.' I said, 


'I've already done it.' Feinberg said, TU see to it that you get 
overruled.' I remember throwing him out of the office." 

Three days later, Nitze added, "I got a call from McNamara. 
He said he'd been instructed to tell me to change my mind and 
release the planes. And I did." Nitze hesitated a moment and 
added: "Feinberg had the power and brought it to bear. I was 
surprised McNamara did this." McNamara, subsequently 
asked about the incident, would only say cryptically: "I can 
understand why Israel wanted a nuclear bomb. There is a basic 
problem there. The existence of Israel has been a question 
mark in history, and that's the essential issue." 

In the end, however, Feinberg and Ben-Gurion could not 
overcome the continued presidential pressure for inspection of 
Dimona. Ben-Gurion's categorical public denial of any weap- 
ons intent at Dimona had left the Israeli government few op- 
tions: refusing access would undercut the government's 
credibility and also lend credence to the newly emerging anti- 
nuclear community inside Israel. In late 1961 a group of promi- 
nent Israeli scholars and scientists — including two former 
members of Bergmann's Atomic Energy Commission — had 
privately banded together to form the Committee for the 
Denuclearization of the Middle East. The new group's agenda 
was straightforward: to stop Israel's search for the nuclear op- 
tion and to defuse the secrecy surrounding the activities at 
Dimona. In April 1962, the committee went public, stating that 
it considered the development of nuclear weapons u to consti- 
tute a danger to Israel and to peace in the Middle East." It 
urged United Nations intervention "to prevent military nu- 
clear production." Others, who knew precisely what was going 
on at Dimona, were equally critical: Pinhas Lavon, former de- 
fense minister, eager to build housing for the constant stream 
of refugees, sarcastically complained to a Dimona official in the 
early 1960s, "We're taking five hundred million dollars away 
from settling the Galilee [in northern Israel] and instead we 
build a bomb." 

The most important factor, clearly, in Ben-Gurion's decision 
to permit the inspections was the Kennedy administration's 
decision in mid-1962 to authorize the sale of Hawk surface-to-air 
missiles to Israel. The United States had provided Israel with 


specialized military training and sensitive electronic gear in the 
past, but sale of the Hawk — considered an advanced defensive 
weapon — was a major departure from past policy of selling no 
weaponry to Israel, and, as Israel had to hope, could lead to 
future sales of offensive American arms. The administration 
had spent months secretly reviewing and analyzing the Hawk 
sale and carefully laying the political groundwork in an at- 
tempt to avoid a political explosion in the Middle East. Armin 
Meyer, now the deputy assistant secretary of state for Near 
East and South Asian affairs, recalled that a special presidential 
message about Israel was sent in June to a regional meeting in 
Athens of American ambassadors serving in the Middle East, 
in which Kennedy reported that "it was necessary for him to 
do something special for Israel." The President solicited the 
group's advice on four options, all of which, Meyer recalled, 
"would have adverse effects in the Arab world." The ambassa- 
dors chose the Hawk sale as "least damaging" to American 
interests, and it was agreed that Egypt and other Arab nations 
would be informed in advance. 

What Kennedy did not tell his ambassadors was that inspec- 
tion rights to Dimona were at stake. That message was person- 
ally relayed to Ben-Gurion by Myer Feldman, who was 
dispatched in August to inform the Israeli government of the 
sale and what Jack Kennedy wanted in return. Feldman, asked 
about his mission, said that it would be "too strong" to suggest 
that the inspection of Dimona was a "quid pro quo" in return 
for the Hawks. "It was more like," explained Feldman, " 'We're 
going to show you how accommodating we are. This is what 
we want.' Israel said, 'This is a good friend and we're going to 
let you in.' " Feldman himself was taken on a private tour of 
the reactor at Dimona that week. 

There was one major concession by Washington. Dimona did 
not have to be inspected by the International Atomic Energy 
Agency. Ben-Gurion had insisted in his private exchanges with 
Kennedy that such inspections would violate Israel's sover- 
eignty. The White House eventually agreed to send a specially 
assembled American inspection team into Dimona. That agree- 
ment was further softened by a second concession that, in es- 
sence, guaranteed that the whole procedure would be little 


more than a whitewash, as the President and his senior advisers 
had to understand: the American inspection team would have 
to schedule its visits well in advance, and with the full acquies- 
cence of Israel. There would be no spot checks permitted. 

Ben-Gurion took no chances: the American inspectors — most 
of them experts in nuclear reprocessing — would be provided 
with a Potemkin Village and never know it. 

The Israeli scheme, based on plans supplied by the French, 
was simple: a false control room was constructed at Dimona, 
complete with false control panels and computer-driven mea- 
suring devices that seemed to be gauging the thermal output of 
a twenty-four-megawatt reactor (as Israel claimed Dimona to 
be) in full operation. There were extensive practice sessions in 
the fake control room, as Israeli technicians sought to avoid any 
slips when the Americans arrived. The goal was to convince 
the inspectors that no chemical reprocessing plant existed or 
was possible. One big fear was that the Americans would seek 
to inspect the reactor core physically, and presumably discover 
that Dimona was utilizing large amounts of heavy water — 
much of it illicitly obtained from France and Norway — and 
obviously operating the reactor at far greater output than the 
acknowledged twenty-four megawatts. It was agreed that the 
inspection team would not be permitted to enter the core "for 
safety reasons." In Abe Feinberg's view, Kennedy's unyielding 
demand for an inspection had left Israel with no option: "It 
was part of my job to tip them off that Kennedy was insisting 
on this. So they gave him a scam job." 

The American team, following a pattern that would be re- 
peated until the inspections came to an end in 1969, spent days 
at Dimona, climbing through the various excavations — many 
facilities had yet to be constructed — but finding nothing. They 
did not question the fact that the reactor core was off-limits and 
gave no sign that they were in any way suspicious of the con- 
trol room. The Israelis even stationed a few engineers in a con- 
cealed area in the control room to monitor the machinery and 
make sure that nothing untoward took place. 

Another aspect of the cover-up was made much easier by the 
fact that none of the Americans spoke or understood Hebrew. 


One former Israeli official recalled that his job was to interpret 
for the American team. "I was part of the cover-up team. One 
of the engineers would start talking too much" in front of the 
Americans, the official said, and he would tell him, in seem- 
ingly conversational Hebrew, " 'Listen, you mother-fucker, 
don't answer that question.' The Americans would think I was 

The Americans were led by Floyd L. Culler, Jr., a leading 
expert in the science of nuclear reprocessing who was then 
deputy director of the Chemical Technology Division at the 
Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee, where the first 
uranium for American nuclear weapons had been enriched. At 
the time, Culler said, he reported to the White House that the 
reactor he and his colleagues inspected was nothing more than 
a "standard reactor. All the elements were counted and 
tagged." Culler, who retired in 1989 as president of the Electri- 
cal Power Research Institute in Palo Alto, California, seemed 
surprised but not shocked upon being informed that his team 
had been duped by a false control room. "It's possible to make a 
system appear that it's controlling something when it's not," he 
explained, adding that simulated control rooms have been 
widely and effectively used for training purposes in reactor 
systems worldwide. Culler was far more disturbed to learn that 
by i960 the CIA's photo interpretation team had concluded that 
a site was being excavated at Dimona for a chemical reproces- 
sing plant and had even attempted to measure the amount of 
dirt being scooped. Such intelligence had not been provided to 
him, he said, and should have been. 

Culler shrugged off the Israeli cheating as inevitable, but not 
necessary. "It's not possible to make archaeological findings 
about what was going on just by seeing footprints," he ex- 
plained. "No one really has that much wisdom." He viewed his 
inspection as "part of the game of wearing away, of finding 
ways to not reach the point of taking action" against Israel's 
nuclear weapons program. He is not at all convinced today, he 
said, that Israel was wrong to develop its own independent 

"They were terrified that they'd be bombed," Culler re- 
called. After the first inspection in 1962, he said, "I was asked by 


an Israeli to raise the question" of an American nuclear um- 
brella upon his return to Washington. Culler wrote his secret 
report on the inspection during stopovers in Athens and Rome, 
and dutifully included an account of the Israeli concern. The 
CIA u got to me as soon as I got off the plane" in Washington, 
he added, and he was rushed into a debriefing. There was no 
further talk of nuclear umbrellas on subsequent inspections, 
and Culler eventually came to ask himself the following rhetor- 
ical question: Would the United States initiate nuclear war to 
protect any country in the Middle East, or India, or Pakistan, 
or Argentina? "We were all in a bind," Culler said. "We have to 
be careful in assigning blame. It may be a story, but there is no 
right or wrong." 

The constant bargaining over Dimona was a factor in aborting 
an ambitious Kennedy administration initiative to resolve the 
Palestinian refugee issue. Like all American Presidents since 
1948, Kennedy came into office with a belief that he could find a 
way to bring long-term peace to the Middle East. As a House 
and Senate member, Kennedy had always been a public sup- 
porter of Israel, but he had repeatedly expressed understanding 
of the aspirations of Arab nationalism and sympathy for the 
plight of the Palestinian refugees. For example, in a February 
1958 speech before a Jewish group, he declared that the refugee 
question "must be resolved through negotiations, resettlement, 
and outside international assistance. But to recognize the prob- 
lem is quite different from saying that the problem is insoluble 
short of the destruction of Israel ... or must be solved by 
Israel alone." 

State Department Arabists were pleasantly surprised early in 
1961 to get word from the White House, according to Armin 
Meyer, that "just because 90 percent of the Jewish vote had 
gone for Kennedy, it didn't mean he was in their pocket." Ken- 
nedy asked for innovative ideas, and the department suggested 
that another try be made to resolve the Palestinian refugee 
problem in the West Bank and Gaza Strip stemming from Is- 
rael's victory in the 1948-49 Arab-Israeli War. The United Na- 
tions had approved Resolution 194 after the war, directing that 


the refugees had to be given the option of returning to Israel if 
they wished to do so. 

The State Department came up with a new twist, in which 
individual refugees would be asked in a confidential question- 
naire if they wanted to return to a former home in Israel. 
Those who ruled out a return would be compensated by Israel 
for the seizure of their property and be given a chance to emi- 
grate to another Arab country or anywhere else in the world. 
There had been bitter protests by Arabs during the Eisen- 
hower years over the failure to implement the United Nations 
resolution. State Department studies on the resettlement issue 
showed that no more than 70,000 to 100,000 Palestinians would 
opt to return to their seized Israeli homesteads over ten years, a 
number that was deemed to be manageable. The Israelis also 
would be given veto power over every returning Palestinian, in 
an attempt to minimize the security risk. 

Kennedy had discussed his Arab initiative with a far from 
enthusiastic Ben-Gurion in their May 1961 New York meeting. 
A few weeks later, President Kennedy authorized a major — 
and highly secret — State Department effort to implement the 
new variant of Resolution 194; over the next eighteen months, 
said Armin Meyer, a workable compromise was accepted by 
the Arab states and endorsed by the White House. Meyer, who 
served as ambassador to Jordan, Iran, and Japan before retiring 
from the Foreign Service in 1972, is convinced today that Ben- 
Gurion's decision not to torpedo the resettlement project was 
based on his belief that the Arabs would never accept direct 
negotiations on any issue with Israel; any discussion of repatri- 
ation, in their eyes, would be tantamount to formal recogni- 
tion. When the expected last-minute Arab rejections did not 
come, Meyer said, "Israel panicked," and provoked a wave of 
intense political pressure from American Jews upon the White 
House. In the end, President Kennedy — already in a war with 
Ben-Gurion over Dimona — backed down, bitterly disap- 
pointing his State Department supporters by doing so.* The 

* There were many in the State Department, however, who understood from the 
outset that the resettlement plan had little chance. "We were struggling with bigger 
issues at the time," explained Phillips Talbot, then Armin Meyer's boss as the assistant 
secretary of state for Near East and South Asian affairs. "It was not at the top of my 


Palestinians would remain stateless refugees in their squalid 
homes in the Gaza Strip and West Bank. "I think we could have 
been spared all this terrorism business and other miseries, ,, said 
Meyer, "if we had gone ahead with that project at that time." 
But, at that time, getting Dimona inspected seemed more 

priority list." Talbot recalled President Kennedy's comment after an early briefing: 
"Phil, that's a great plan with only one flaw — you've never had to run for election." 


Years off Pressure 

John Kennedy, profoundly committed to the principle 
of nonproliferation, continued throughout 1962 to pressure 
Ben-Gurion about international inspection and continued to 
receive the prime minister's bland and irritating assurances 
that Israel had no intention of becoming an atomic power. The 
President was far too politically astute not to understand, as he 
angrily told his friend Charles Bartlett, that the Israeli "sons of 
bitches lie to me constantly about their nuclear capability." 
One solution was to help get Ben-Gurion, then embattled in 
the most serious crisis of his political career, out of office. 

A few days after Christmas 1962, Kennedy made what 
amounted to a direct move against the prime minister's leader- 
ship. He invited Foreign Minister Golda Meir, one of Ben- 
Gurion's leading critics inside the cabinet and the Mapai Party, 
to his Palm Beach, Florida, home for a seventy-minute private 
talk. Meir made no secret of the fact that she resented Ben- 
Gurion for permitting his acolytes, Shimon Peres and Moshe 
Dayan, to operate behind the back of the foreign ministry; she 
and other party members who had been born in Eastern Eu- 
rope, such as Levi Eshkol, the treasury minister, were con- 
vinced that Ben-Gurion chose to rely on young men such as 
Peres and Dayan only because they would be more reluctant to 
stand up to him. 

The declassified memorandum on the Kennedy-Meir meet- 
ing contains no specific mention of nuclear weapons (some 
paragraphs were deleted for national security reasons), but 
there is little doubt that Kennedy pointedly raised the issue. 
The memorandum further shows that Kennedy made an ex- 
traordinary private commitment to Israel's defense. "We are 


asking the cooperation of Israel in the same way that we are 
cooperating with Israel to help meet its needs," Kennedy told 
Meir. "Israel doubtless thinks of itself as deeply endangered. 
. . . Our position in these matters may seem to be asking Israel 
to neglect its interests. The reason we do it is not that we are 
unfriendly to Israel; but in order to help more effectively. I 
think it is quite clear that in case of an invasion the United 
States would come to the support of Israel. We have that capac- 
ity and it is growing." It was language no Israeli had ever heard 
from Dwight Eisenhower. 

Moments later, according to the memorandum, Kennedy — 
anticipating the chronic crisis that would be created by the 
refugees of the West Bank and Gaza Strip — expressed his regret 
that the Arab resettlement plan had failed and said his adminis- 
tration would not give up trying to find some solution to the 
refugee situation. He added that the United States "is really 
interested in Israel. . . . What we want from Israel arises be- 
cause our relationship is a two-way street. Israel's security in 
the long run depends in part on what it does with the Arabs, 
but also on us." 

Kennedy's commitment to Golda Meir, along with his deci- 
sion to sell the Hawk missiles, amounted to a turning point in 
American foreign policy toward Israel — one little noted even 
today. The Kennedy offer might have been enough, if Israel's 
goal had been to forge a military partnership with the United 
States. But Israel's needs were far more basic. 

John McCone remained agitated about the Israeli bomb and the 
failure of his agency to determine whether a chemical reproces- 
sing plant was buried underground at Dimona. He also was 
more outspoken than any other Kennedy insider on the issue; 
at a 1962 Washington dinner party he publicly reprimanded 
Charles Lucet, a senior French foreign ministry official, for 
France's role in the Israeli bomb. Lucet, who had served as 
deputy ambassador in Washington in the late 1950s (and would 
become ambassador in 1965), was seated near McCone, who at 
one point abruptly asked: "So, Mr. Lucet, your country is 
building a reprocessing plant for the Israelis?" Lucet replied 
with what was France's public position on the issue: "No, we 


are building a reactor." McCone then turned his back on Lucet 
and did not speak to him for the rest of the evening; it was, 
given France's high standing with the President and his wife, 
who were both Francophiles, a pointed rebuff.* 

Kennedy was constantly raising the nuclear issue in his dis- 
cussions with senior Israelis — and constantly getting boiler- 
plate answers. In early April 1963, Shimon Peres flew to the 
capital to meet at the White House on the still-pending Hawk 
sale, and was directly asked by the President about Israeli in- 
tentions. An Israeli nuclear bomb, Kennedy said, "would cre- 
ate a very perilous situation. That's why we have been diligent 
about keeping an eye on your effort in the atomic field. What 
can you tell me about that?" Peres's answer was a fabrication 
that would become the official Israeli response for years to 
come: "I can tell you forthrightly that we will not introduce 
atomic weapons into the region. We certainly won't be the first 
to do so. We have no interest in that. On the contrary, our 
interest is in de-escalating the armament tension, even in total 

The administration's lack of specific information about Is- 
raeli intentions was complicated by the fact, as the President 
had to know, that many senior members of Congress supported 
the concept of a nuclear-armed Israel. A few days before his 
meeting with the President, Peres had discussed nuclear weap- 
ons with Senator Stuart Symington, a Kennedy supporter and 
ranking member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, and 
had been told, as Peres told his biographer: "Don't be a bunch 
of fools. Don't stop making atomic bombs. And don't listen to 
the administration. Do whatever you think best." 

Israel was doing just that. The physical plant at Dimona con- 
tinued to mature. The reactor went critical — that is, began a 
sustained chain reaction — sometime in 1962 with no significant 
problems, and was capable of being operated at more than sev- 
enty megawatts, far greater than the twenty-four megawatts 

* Lucet was offended by McCone's action and, upon his return to Paris, relayed the 
incident to Bertrand Goldschmidt. "He asked me if we could separate France from 
responsibility for the [Israeli] bomb," Goldschmidt recalled with a laugh. "I said, 'No. 
Not only did we take the girl when she was a virgin, but we made her pregnant.' " 


publicly acknowledged by the Ben-Gurion government. Run- 
ning the plant hotter would create more plutonium by-product 
to be reprocessed, and a larger nuclear weapons stockpile than 
any outsider could anticipate. Later that year, the private 
French construction companies at Dimona, always eager for 
business, began once again to work on the vital chemical 
reprocessing plant underground at Dimona — despite de 
Gaulle's insistence that France would have nothing more to do 
with the Israeli bomb. The French would build at a furious 
pace for the next three years, at high pay, finishing the 
reprocessing plant and the elaborate waste treatment and 
safety facilities that were essential. French technicians and en- 
gineers, who had begun drifting away, were back in force in 
Beersheba, whose population was growing steadily (it reached 
seventy thousand by 1970). 

Israeli and French scientists continued to cooperate at the 
French nuclear test site in the Sahara, as the experiments be- 
came more weapons-oriented. By late 1961, the French had be- 
gun a series of underground tests and were perfecting a series 
of miniaturized warheads for use in aircraft and, eventually, 
missiles. There were further tests in the early 1960s of a more 
advanced Shavit rocket system, with no more public announce- 
ments; CIA analysts assumed that the long-range rocket was 
meant for military use. And in 1963 Israel paid $100 million to 
the privately owned Dassault Company of France, then one of 
the world's most successful missile and aircraft firms, for the 
joint development and manufacture of twenty-five medium- 
range Israeli missiles. It was anticipated that the missile, to be 
known to the American intelligence community as the Jeri- 
cho I, would be able to deliver a miniaturized nuclear warhead 
to targets three hundred miles away. 

By spring of 1963, Kennedy's relationship with Ben-Gurion re- 
mained at an impasse over Dimona, and the correspondence 
between the two became increasingly sour. None of those let- 
ters has been made public* Ben-Gurion's responses were being 

* The Kennedy exchanges with Ben-Gurion also have not been released to U.S. 
government officials with full clearances who have attempted to write classified histo- 
ries of the period. "The culminate result" of such rigid security, one former American 


drafted by Yuval Neeman, a physicist and defense ministry in- 
telligence officer who was directly involved in the nuclear 
weapons program. "It was not a friendly exchange," Neeman 
recalled. "Kennedy was writing like a bully. It was brutal." 

The President made sure that the Israeli prime minister paid 
for his defiance. In late April, Egypt, Syria, and Iraq united to 
form the short-lived Arab Federation; such unity was Ben-Gu- 
rion's recurring nightmare. He instinctively turned to Wash- 
ington, and proposed in a letter to the President that the 
United States and Soviet Union join forces to publicly declare 
the territorial integrity and security of every Middle Eastern 
state. "If you can spare an hour or two for a discussion with me 
on the situation and possible solutions," Ben-Gurion asked, "I 
am prepared to fly to Washington at your convenience and 
without any publicity." Kennedy rejected Ben-Gurion's offer 
of a state visit and expressed "real reservations," according to 
Ben-Gurion's biography, about any joint statement on the issue 
with the Soviets. Five days later, a disappointed Ben-Gurion 
sent a second note to Kennedy: "Mr. President, my people have 
the right to exist . . . and this existence is in danger." He re- 
quested that the United States sign a security treaty with 
Israel. Again the answer was no, and it was clear to the Mapai 
Party that Ben-Gurion's leadership and his intractability about 
Dimona were serious liabilities in Washington. Golda Meir ac- 
knowledged to Ben-Gurion's biographer, "We knew about 
these approaches. . . . We said nothing, even though we won- 

A few weeks later, on June 16, 1963, Ben-Gurion abruptly 
resigned as prime minister and defense minister, ending his 
fifteen-year reign as Israel's most influential public official. 

The many accounts of Ben-Gurion's resignation have accu- 
rately described the resurgence of scandal, public distrust, and 
polarization that marked his last years. The Lavon Affair, stem- 
ming from the series of pre-Suez War sabotage activities inside 
Egypt, had come by the early 1960s to dominate much of the 
public agenda inside Israel, as new revelations came to light 

official lamented, "is a very poorly informed bureaucracy— even if there are people 
willing to buck the system and ask taboo questions." 


suggesting that low-level officials in the defense ministry might 
have falsified documents and given misleading testimony in an 
effort to accuse Pinhas Lavon, the former defense minister, of 
authorizing the operation. Lavon, still one of the most influen- 
tial members of the Mapai Party, was serving as head of the 
Histadrut, the powerful federation of labor unions (85 percent 
of the work force in Israel belonged to unions) that also con- 
trolled a large segment of Israeli industry. Lavon asked Ben- 
Gurion for exoneration. Ben-Gurion refused, and Lavon took 
his case to the Knesset's foreign affairs and defense committee. 
Once at the Knesset, he charged that Ben-Gurion, Peres, and 
Dayan had undermined civilian authority over the military; 
then he made sure that his allegations were leaked to the press. 
With those actions, Lavon broke two cardinal rules of Israeli 
politics: he discussed defense matters in public and he failed to 
keep the party dispute behind closed doors. The next step was 
a cabinet-level committee, set up at Levi Eshkol's instigation, 
that was to recommend procedures for investigating the Lavon 
allegations. But the committee, instead of dealing with the pro- 
cedural issue, cleared Lavon of authorizing the failed operation 
in Egypt. 

Ben-Gurion accused the committee of overstepping its man- 
date, resigned once again, and called for a new government in 
an unsuccessful effort to annul the decision. Many of those who 
opposed Ben-Gurion, especially Levi Eshkol and Pinhas Sapir, 
also opposed Lavon's violation of political norms and success- 
fully moved for his dismissal from the Histadrut job. The pri- 
mary goal of the Mapai Party leaders at that moment was to get 
the tiresome affair behind them before the Israeli citizenry, dis- 
tressed by the continuing discussion of so many government 
secrets, became convinced that Mapai was unable to manage 
the country effectively. Ben-Gurion, arguing that someone had 
lied, continued to insist, however, that a judicial inquiry be 
convened. The public came to see him as a stubborn old man 
who was trying to keep the issue alive; the affair tarnished his 
reputation and made what seemed to be his dictatorial methods 
of running the government more vulnerable than ever. The 
clear victors in the scandal were Eshkol, Sapir, and Golda 
Meir, who emerged with higher public standing and with re- 


newed determination not to permit Ben-Gurion to bypass 
them in favor of Dayan and Peres. Dayan and Peres joined 
Ben-Gurion as losers: Dayan never became prime minister, and 
Peres waited twenty years for the job. 

A second public scandal surfaced in 1962 and 1963 when it was 
reported that Egypt had developed — with support from some 
West German scientists — what were alleged to be advanced 
missiles capable of hitting Israel. Golda Meir and her support- 
ers took a hard line on the Egyptian-West German activities, 
warning that the coalition posed a danger to Israel's national 
security. Ben-Gurion was far more skeptical of the threat posed 
by Egypt's dalliance with West German scientists and, in his 
public statements, emphasized the contribution that West Ger- 
many had made to Israeli security. What the public did not 
know was that Ben-Gurion had just completed a successful, 
and secret, negotiation with West German Chancellor Konrad 
Adenauer for modern weaponry, including small arms, heli- 
copters, and spare parts. For Ben-Gurion, there now was "an- 
other Germany," profoundly different from the Germany of 
Hitler's time and far more willing than France and America to 
keep Israel armed. Ben-Gurion's point of view was ignored in 
the wake of press hysteria over the German aid to Egypt, with 
newspaper talk of German "death rays" and renewed "final 
solutions" — all of which turned out to be exaggerated. The 
public campaign over the West German help for Egypt soon 
evolved into a wave of criticism and scorn for Ben-Gurion and 
his notion of "another Germany." Ben-Gurion's colleagues in 
the Mapai Party — especially Golda Meir, who, like many Israe- 
lis, wanted nothing to do with Germans — joined in the 

The controversy over Lavon and West Germany appeared to 

* The German issue was a never-ending and emotional one for a nation led by 
survivors of the Holocaust; any diplomatic contact resulted in a crisis. There had been 
street riots in front of the Knesset in 1952 to protest the initial Israeli-West German 
talks over compensation for the loss of Jewish lives and property in the Holocaust. 
Cash-starved Israel eventually accepted more than $800 million in reparations. Ten- 
sions remained, despite the flow of money: an Israeli violinist was later stabbed on the 
street after performing the music of Richard Strauss in public. In June 1959, a furor 
over the sale of Israeli munitions to West Germany resulted in another brief resigna- 
tion by Ben-Gurion and yet another call for new elections. The Mapai Party held on to 
its Knesset majority, and Ben-Gurion, confidence vote in hand, returned to office. 


be more than enough to convince Ben-Gurion to leave public 
life and return once again to his kibbutz in the desert. Tired 
and distracted after years of leadership, the Old Man was look- 
ing forward to writing his memoirs and telling his version of 
the history of Israel and Zionism. There was no way for the 
Israeli public, surfeited with accounts of Lavon and the Ger- 
man scandal, to suspect that there was yet another factor in 
Ben-Gurion's demise: his increasingly bitter impasse with Ken- 
nedy over a nuclear-armed Israel. 

Levi Eshkol, the new prime minister, was, like Ben-Gurion, a 
product of Eastern Europe (he was born in 1895) w h° turned to 
Palestine and Zionism at an early age. There were few other 
similarities. Eshkol was far more democratic, both in politics 
and in personality; the notion of compromise — so foreign to 
Ben-Gurion — returned to the leadership of the government 
and the Mapai Party. Eshkol moved quickly to lighten govern- 
ment control of the press and also set up an independent broad- 
casting authority to ease the government's monitoring and 
censorship of the state-run television network — reforms that 
Ben-Gurion had bitterly resisted. Most significantly, Eshkol 
had spent the last eleven years as finance minister, much of it in 
a struggle against funding for Dimona, and was far less com- 
mitted emotionally than Ben-Gurion to the concept that hun- 
dreds of millions of dollars should be spent each year on 
nuclear activity to the detriment of what he and his supporters 
saw as Israel's most immediate need — better weapons and 
training for the army and air force. 

Kennedy, confronted with intelligence reports showing that 
Israel, far from slowing down its nuclear program during his 
presidency, had been expanding it, wasted little time in urging 
nuclear restraint on the new Israeli government; private presi- 
dential messages reiterating the need for international inspec- 
tion of Dimona began arriving shortly after Eshkol took office. 
The President's belief in arms control had been strengthened 
in the early fall of 1963 by the positive American response to the 
Senate ratification of the Limited Test Ban Treaty, which 
banned nuclear testing in the atmosphere, underwater, and in 


outer space.* Continued political support for nuclear disarma- 
ment meant less reason to fear the Jewish lobby. Israel's Jeri- 
cho I missile was another factor in the continued White House 
pressure on Eshkol. American experts considered the Jericho's 
guidance system to be highly unstable and inaccurate, sug- 
gesting — so the analysts concluded — that only one type of war- 
head made sense. 

Kennedy's persistent pressure on Israel stemmed from his be- 
lief that Israel had not yet developed any nuclear weapons; that 
it was not yet a proliferator. There is evidence that once Israel 
actually began manufacturing bombs — as the French had done 
— the President was prepared to be as pragmatic as he needed 
to be. While Kennedy remained resolutely opposed to a nuclear 
Israel to the end, he did change his mind about de Gaulle's 
bombs. Daniel Ellsberg, who would later make public the Pen- 
tagon Papers on the Vietnam War, was involved in high-level 
nuclear weapons issues in 1963 as a deputy in the Pentagon's 
Office of International Strategic Affairs. He recalled seeing one 
morning a "Top Secret, Eyes Only" memorandum from 
McGeorge Bundy to the President summarizing a change in 
policy toward the French: u We would, after all," Ellsberg re- 
called Bundy's memorandum stating, "cooperate with the 
French and allow them to use the Nevada test site for under- 
ground testing." At the time, the French had refused to sign 
the Limited Test Ban Treaty, and de Gaulle had announced 
that France would continue to test its bombs in the atmo- 
sphere.** Kennedy's obvious goal was to bring France in line 

* Arthur Schlesinger described in A Thousand Days how Kennedy, "almost by acci- 
dent," raised the nuclear test ban during a speech in Billings, Montana. The President 
casually praised Senator Mike J. Mansfield, the majority leader from Montana, for his 
support for the treaty. "To his surprise," wrote Schlesinger, "this allusion produced 
strong and sustained applause. Heartened, he [Kennedy] set forth his hope of lessening 
the 4 chance of a military collision between those two great nuclear powers which 
together have the power to kill three hundred million people in the short space of a 
day.* The Billings response encouraged him to make the pursuit of peace increasingly 
the theme of his trip." 

** The French had been cut out from any postwar nuclear cooperation by the 1946 
Atomic Energy Act, which prohibited the transfer of American nuclear weapons infor- 
mation to any other country. In 1958, President Eisenhower recommended, and Con- 
gress approved, an amendment to the 1946 act that permitted the United States to 
exchange nuclear design information and fissionable materials with the British; France, 
of course, was enraged by the exclusion. (Britain ended up completely dependent on 


with the test ban treaty, whether officially signed or not. The 
Bundy memorandum remained fixed in Ellsberg's memory: it 
was dated November 22, 1963, the day of Kennedy's assassina- 
tion in Dallas, Texas. 

Kennedy's successor, Lyndon Johnson, like many Vice Presi- 
dents, had been left in the dark on sensitive national security 
issues by the President and his top aides. "J°lmson went ber- 
serk upon being briefed in by the Agency," a former high-level 
American intelligence official recalled. "He didn't know any- 
thing about the problem and he cursed Kennedy for cutting 
him out."* 

Johnson's ties to Israel were strong long before he became 
President. Two of his closest advisers, lawyers Abe Fortas 
(later named to the Supreme Court) and Edwin L. Weisl, Sr., 
while not particularly religious, felt deeply about the security 
of Israel. Johnson also had known of Abe Feinberg and his 
fund-raising skills since the Truman years; Feinberg was 
among those who had raised money for Johnson's successful 
1948 campaign for the Senate. 

the United States by the early 1960s for its strategic nuclear delivery vehicles, a status 
that existed into the early 1990s.) The Kennedy administration continued to antagonize 
the French on nuclear issues. Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara, distressed at 
France's nuclear independence and its continued testing in the Sahara, went on a 
public campaign in 1962 against the force defrappe. In a famous spring commencement 
address at the University of Michigan (in which he announced that the United States 
was moving away in its targeting from massive retaliation to limited nuclear war), 
McNamara criticized "weak national nuclear forces" as being "dangerous, expensive, 
prone to obsolescence, and lacking in credibility as a deterrent." Instead, he insisted, 
the nations of Europe should buy American arms and rockets to build up their conven- 
tional forces and let the United States handle the issue of nuclear deterrence. He had 
delivered essentially the same message a few weeks earlier in Athens, enraging not only 
de Gaulle, but America's NATO allies. ". . . [A]ll the allies are angry," British Prime 
Minister Harold Macmillan wrote in his diary, "with the American proposal that we 
should buy rockets to the tune of umpteen million dollars, the warheads to be under 
American control. This is not a European rocket. It's a racket of the American indus- 
try. . . . It's rather sad, because the Americans (who are naive and inexperienced) are 
up against centuries of diplomatic skill and finesse." Continued U.S. opposition to the 
force de frappe was one reason for de Gaulle's 1966 decision to remove France from 
NATO's military organization and evict NATO headquarters and all allied military 
facilities from French territory. 

* Johnson similarly had been excluded from the intense meetings and discussions 
during the Cuban missile crisis the year before, and it was left to John McCone to tell 
the Vice President about the issue just hours before it was to be made public. "Johnson 
was pissed," McCone later told Walt Elder, and, "harrumphing and belching," threat- 
ened not to support the President on the issue if the Senate leadership did not. McCone 
assured the Vice President that the Senate was indeed backing the President, and the 
placated Vice President reversed course. 


There was a much deeper link, however, that had nothing to 
do with campaign funds: Johnson had visited the Nazi concen- 
tration camp at Dachau while on a congressional fact-finding 
trip at the end of World War II. His wife, Lady Bird, told a 
Texas historian years after Johnson's death that he had re- 
turned "just shaken, bursting with overpowering revulsion and 
incredulous horror at what he had seen. Hearing about it is one 
thing, being there is another." There are no photographs of the 
visit, but Johnson's congressional archives contain a full set of 
U.S. Army photos taken two days after the liberation of the 
death camp on April 30, 1945. 

Johnson's sensitivity to the plight of European Jews had be- 
gun even before World War II when, as a young congressman 
from Texas, he was urged by Jewish supporters in his home 
district to cut through Washington's red tape and get asylum in 
America for German refugees running for their lives. Once the 
refugees got into the country, Johnson had worked hard to 
keep them in, and his congressional files show that Erich Leins- 
dorf, the eminent conductor, was among those whose deporta- 
tion Johnson had prevented. Leinsdorf had made a stunning 
American debut with New York's Metropolitan Opera in 1938, 
but was scheduled to be deported late in the year when his six- 
month visa was up. Deportation to Austria after the Nazi An- 
schluss in Vienna meant slow death in a concentration camp. 
Johnson won the respect and the financial backing of the Jew- 
ish community in Texas by taking on the Leinsdorf case, and 
others, and finding a way to circumvent the rules.* 

President Johnson stayed loyal to his old friends. Five weeks 
after assuming office, he dedicated a newly constructed Austin 
synagogue, Agudas Achim, as a favor to James Novy, a long- 
time Texas political ally and Zionist leader who was chairman 
of the building committee. He was the first American Presi- 
dent to do so, yet only a few newspapers took note of the event. 
In his introduction, Novy, once the Southwest regional chair- 

* Jews in Europe found it extremely difficult in the 1930s to get visas for the United 
States, although American immigration quotas went unfilled. Between 1933 and 1938, for 
example, only 27,000 German Jews were granted entry visas to the United States, far 
less than the 129,875 permissible under the quotas. More on Johnson's early role in 
support of Jews can be found in "Prologue: LBJ's Foreign Affairs Background," an 
unpublished 1989 University of Texas doctoral thesis by Louis S. Gomolak. 


man of the Zionist Organization of America, looked at the 
President and said, u We can't ever thank him enough for all 
those Jews he got out of Germany during the days of Hitler." 
Lady Bird Johnson later explained: u Jews have been woven 
into the warp and woof of all his years." 

Lyndon Johnson was quickly consumed by the Vietnam War, 
and what he saw as the struggle of a small democratic nation 
against the forces of Communism. But Israel likewise was per- 
ceived as a besieged democracy standing up to the Soviet 
Union and its clients in the Arab world. Johnson's strong emo- 
tional ties to Israel and his belief that Soviet arms were altering 
the balance of power in the Middle East drove him to become 
the first American President to supply Israel with offensive 
weapons and the first publicly to commit America to its de- 
fense. The American Jewish community eventually would be 
torn apart by Johnson's continued prosecution of the Vietnam 
War, with many Jewish leaders insisting that Johnson's 
steadfast support of Israel entitled him to loyalty on Vietnam, 
while others continued to oppose the war on principle. 

In the early years of his presidency, however, Johnson ech- 
oed Kennedy's policy by urging Israel to submit Dimona to 
International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) inspection. His 
support for nonproliferation and his desire to end the Cold War 
were motivated by his belief that only by a relaxing of interna- 
tional tensions could he achieve his ultimate goal — the exten- 
sion of the New Deal to all Americans. A nuclear Israel was 
unacceptable: it could mean a nuclear Egypt, increased Soviet 
involvement in the Middle East, and perhaps war. 


The Samson Option 

Levi Eshkol's goal was to find a middle ground be- 
tween the White House, with its insistence on international 
inspections, and the pro-nuclear faction of the Mapai Party, led 
by David Ben-Gurion, who, from retirement, turned his 
insistence on an Israeli nuclear arsenal into a political Last 

The prime minister's dilemma was not whether to go nu- 
clear, but when and at what cost, in terms of the competing 
need to equip and train the conventional units of the army, 
navy, and air force. 

The debate over the nuclear option had surfaced in the na- 
tion's newspapers, in deliberately innocuous language, long be- 
fore Eshkol took office. In mid-1962, for example, Shimon Peres 
and former army chief of staff Moshe Dayan, then Ben-Gu- 
rion's minister of agriculture, took advantage of the funeral of a 
prominent Zionist military leader to warn their peers that Is- 
rael's existence was linked to the "technological achievements 
of the 1970s" and investment in "equipment of the future." In 
April 1963, Dayan wrote an article for Maariv, the afternoon 
newspaper, urging the Israeli arms industry to keep pace with 
Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser's effort to build nu- 
clear weapons. "In the era of rockets with conventional and 
unconventional warheads," Dayan wrote, "we must diligently 
develop those weapons so that we don't lag." 

Ben-Gurion was even more explicit in an interview with col- 
umnist C. L. Sulzberger of the New York Times five months after 
leaving office. Sulzberger quoted Ben-Gurion's concern about a 
rocket-armed Egypt and added: "As a result he [Ben-Gurion] 
hints grimly that in its nearby Dimona reactor Israel itself may 


be experimenting with military atomics." Nuclear energy can- 
not be ruled out, the ex-prime minister was quoted as saying, 
"because Nasser won't give up. Nor will he risk war again 
until he's sure he can win. That means atomic weapons — and 
he has a large desert in which to test. We can't test here." 
Sulzberger's column was published on Saturday, November 16, 
1963. It got to Ben-Gurion in a hurry, for on that same day he 
wrote a letter to the editor of the New York Times denying that 
he in any way had suggested or hinted of nuclear weapons 
during the interview with Sulzberger. 

The Eshkol government, under pressure first from President 
Kennedy and then from Johnson, worked at keeping the lid on, 
and had no qualms about stretching the truth to do so. In De- 
cember 1963, Shimon Yiftach, director of scientific programs 
for the defense ministry, publicly told a group of Israeli science 
writers that, as they had assumed, the advanced reactor at 
Dimona would produce plutonium as a by-product. However, 
Yiftach insisted that the Israeli government had no plans to 
build a separate plant for chemically reprocessing plutonium. 
Yiftach, who had been trained at the Argonne National Labo- 
ratory in Illinois, was then one of Israel's leading experts in the 
chemistry of plutonium and knew that French construction 
companies had started up once again on the underground 
reprocessing plant at Dimona. 

Eshkol's apprehension about committing Israel to the mass 
production of nuclear weapons did not impede the steady pro- 
gress at Dimona. By mid-1964, the reactor had been in opera- 
tion for almost two years and the reprocessing plant, with its 
remote-controlled laboratories and computer-driven machin- 
ery, was essentially completed and ready to begin producing 
weapons-grade plutonium from the reactor's spent uranium 
fuel rods. Israel's nuclear facilities eventually would include a 
weapons assembly plant in Haifa, to the north, and a well- 
fortified nuclear storage igloo at the Tel Nof fighter base near 
Rehovot. Extreme security is a way of life inside the nuclear 
complex, and especially at Dimona, which is under the con- 
stant watch of Israeli troops, electronic detection systems, and 
radar screens linked to a missile battery. All aircraft, including 


those belonging to the Israeli Air Force, are forbidden to over- 
fly the facility — and do so at perilous risk.* 

Well-placed Israeli sources say that the physicists and techni- 
cians at Dimona conducted at least one successful low-yield 
nuclear test sometime in the mid-1960s at an underground cav- 
ern near the Israeli-Egyptian border in the Negev desert. Such 
detonations, known in the weapons community as "zero yield," 
produce a fission yield that is low, but discernible, and are con- 
sidered to be a perfectly reliable measurement of the overall 
weapons assembly system.** The test was said to have shaken 
parts of the Sinai. 

In early 1965, completion of the underground reprocessing 
plant removed the last barrier to Israel's nuclear ambitions; it 
also heightened the ongoing debate inside the government over 
the issue. Completion of the reprocessing plant also made it 
even more essential that Floyd Culler's annual visits to Dimona 
continue to produce nothing, and the Israeli cover-up was con- 
stantly being improved and embellished by Binyamin 
Blumberg and his colleagues in the Office of Special Tasks. 
(International inspections by the IAEA were, of course, consid- 
ered and rejected in the Kennedy years.) In the mid-1960s, 
Dimona's managers came up with a new method of hiding its 
underground world. Members of the Israeli Defense Force's 
269th General Staff Reconnaissance Unit, the most elite under- 
cover group in the nation, were ordered to the nuclear facility a 
few weeks before the arrival of a Culler inspection and told to 
bring with them, one former 269th member recalled, "eight 
semitrailers loaded with grass. It was sod — all for camouflage," 

* During the 1967 Six-Day War, an Israeli Mirage III was shot down when its pilot, 
either confused or dealing with equipment problems, ventured into Dimona's airspace. 
In February 1973, a Libyan airliner flew off course over the Sinai because of a naviga- 
tional error and also, after ignoring or failing to see signals to land, was destroyed by 
fighter planes of the Israeli Air Force, killing 108 of the 113 people aboard. Israel 
claimed, without evidence, that the plane was headed for Dimona. 

** Theodore B. Taylor, a physicist who designed weapons for the American nuclear 
program, has written that such low-yield events are, in fact, "more stringent" than full- 
yield tests because any failings or imperfections in the weapons design show up more 
readily at very low yield than at high yield. Taylor, in a 1988 paper presented to an 
arms control seminar in London, noted that low-yield tests are reliable enough to be 
useful to countries with considerable weapons testing experience. "But," he added, 
"they can also be useful to countries starting nuclear weapons development, if they 
want to test without detection." 


he added. "Our job for ten days is to cover the walks and bun- 
kers with dirt, sod, and bushes. When the delegation comes, 
I'm standing watering grass that looks like it's been there for 
years." The scene remains vivid in his memory, the former 
officer said, because he'd never before seen sod.* 

There is no evidence that the American intelligence commu- 
nity, and President Johnson, had any idea how close Israel was 
to joining the nuclear club; the available documents show that 
the President's men somehow managed to convince themselves 
that by continuing to focus on IAEA inspection as the solution, 
all of the nagging questions about Dimona and Israeli nuclear 
proliferation would go away.** Eshkol was invited for a state 
visit in June 1964 — the first visit to Washington by an Israeli 
prime minister — and declassified presidential documents on file 
at the LBJ Library at the University of Texas show that the 
White House believed that Eshkol could be induced by the 
promise of American arms to open up Dimona to the Interna- 
tional Atomic Energy Agency. The President's men were, in 
essence, operating in self-inflicted darkness when it came to 
Dimona: they were convinced that Israel had the technical skill 
to build a bomb and install it on a warhead, but no one seemed 
to know whether Israel seriously intended to do so or not. It 
was as if the White House believed there really were two at- 
oms, one of which was peaceful. 

# The CIA's photo interpreters, recalled Dino Brugioni, were far from fooled by the 
sudden appearance of seemingly new grass. "It was a foolish move on their [the Israe- 
lis] part and confirmed what we knew," he said. "You could see what they were doing 
in the aerial photos. They planted sod, trees, and bushes. Nothing grows in Beersheba 
like that. I mean, why in hell would you plant that stuff there and not around their 
homes? It just spotlights activity." 

## Washington may have gotten the wrong signal when the Eshkol government, 
after extended negotiations, finally went forward in April 1965 with an American re- 
quest to shift responsibility for inspection of the Nahal Soreq reactor to the IAEA. 
American teams had conducted the inspection two times a year until then, without 
incident, under the original 1955 agreement that had set up the small research reactor — 
which, unlike Dimona, was constantly being used for medical and scientific research 
by the staff of the Weizmann Institute. The American request was consistent with the 
Johnson administration's policy of strengthening IAEA safeguards by insisting that all 
countries participating in the Atoms for Peace program submit to international, and 
not American, inspection. Another factor in the switch to international safeguards, a 
former nonproliferation official explained, was the widespread belief that the bilateral 
American inspections were weak. In return for the Israeli acquiescence, the United 
States agreed to provide forty more kilograms of enriched uranium, under safeguards, 
for Nahal Soreq's research program. 


McGeorge Bundy, the national security adviser, who had 
been involved with the Israeli weapons question since early 
1961, professed to Johnson not to have any intelligence about 
Israel's nuclear intentions, according to the White House docu- 
ments, in a memorandum summarizing the potential threat to 
Israel posed by Egypt's missile systems. Both nations could 
make missiles, Bundy told the President on May 18, two weeks 
before the Eshkol visit, but "the difference was that the Israelis 
could make nuclear warheads to put on their missiles, while the 
UAR [United Arab Republic] couldn't. The real issue was 
whether Israel was going for a nuclear capability." It's incon- 
ceivable that Bundy and his colleagues did not know what 
Israel was doing with a secret nuclear reactor in the Negev. 

Eshkol wanted to buy American M-48 tanks, and was de- 
lighted when Johnson agreed before their summit meeting to 
use the prestige of his office to persuade West Germany to sell 
Israel the M-48 out of its NATO stockpiles. Such a purchase, 
even if circuitous, would be a first for offensive weapons, and 
would open the American arms pipeline. The Johnson men 
had a fallback in case Eshkol did not agree to international 
inspections, as many must have expected he would not: they 
wanted Israel's permission to brief Arab nations on the results 
of the annual Floyd Culler inspections. 

Eshkol's mission in coming to America was to get what he 
could — in the way of U.S. arms and commitments — without 
making any real concessions on Dimona, which, of course, he 
could not. He had told the White House prior to his arrival that 
he would continue to accept the Culler inspections of Dimona, 
but he wanted nothing to do with the International Atomic 
Energy Agency. Israel offered the public argument, as did 
other putatively nonnuclear nations, that it should not be 
forced to place its national laboratories under IAEA aegis until 
all of the world's nuclear powers did so. China and France 
were not parties to the agreement. There was a second issue, 
equally contrived: the contention that the IAEA, like the 
United Nations, had systematically discriminated against Israel 
in favor of the Arab nations. There were perhaps some inside 
Israel who profoundly believed that such discrimination ex- 
isted, but it had nothing to do with the reason the IAEA was 


not welcome. Eshkol also drew the line at any briefing of the 

The White House staff had to anticipate hard bargaining on 
the Arab and IAEA issues; Eshkol's delegation included Peres, 
who was violently opposed to international inspection and to 
the sharing of anything about Dimona with the Arab world. 
Nonetheless, NSC aide Robert Komer, in his pre-summit mem- 
orandum to Johnson, suggested that the President try to 
change Eshkol's mind on both issues. "We hope you'll person- 
ally tell Eshkol they should bite the bullet now," he said of the 
IAEA inspections. "Without in any way implying that Israel is 
going nuclear, one has to admit that a functioning . . . reactor 
plus an oncoming missile delivery system add up to an ines- 
capable conclusion that Israel is at least putting itself in a posi- 
tion to go nuclear. This could have the gravest repercussions 
on U.S.-Israeli relations, and the earlier we try to halt it the 
better chance we have. This is why your raising a to-do . . . 
even if unsuccessful, will at least put Israel firmly on notice 
that we may be back at it again." 

Turning to the relaying of information about Dimona to the 
Arabs, Komer wrote, "We're firmly convinced that Israel's ap- 
parent desire to keep the Arabs guessing is highly dangerous. 
To appear to be going nuclear without really doing so is to 
invite trouble. It might spark Nasser into a foolish preemptive 

Komer, who served for years with the CIA before joining 
Bundy's National Security Council staff, had few illusions at 
the time about what was going on underground at Dimona. He 
vividly recalled discussing the Israeli nuclear bomb project 
with John McCone, his boss: "We knew the program was con- 
tinuing. They never told us they would stop." 

His recommendations to the President, as he had to know, 
had no chance of being accepted by the Israelis, nor could they 
even serve as a negotiating device. Raising a "to-do" to put 
Israel "firmly on notice" was not going to stop the bomb. 

A declassified summary of the June i Johnson-Eshkol conversa- 
tion shows that Johnson indeed did follow his staff's advice to 
the letter, as if he, too, believed that Washington could negoti- 


ate Israel out of its nuclear arsenal. Johnson was emphatic in 
telling Eshkol that international inspection of Dimona would 
calm the Arabs and slow the Middle East missile race. "The 
President pointed out that the Arabs will inevitably tie Israeli 
missiles to Israel's nuclear potential," the official memorandum 
of conversation said. "This is why we see IAEA control as in 
Israel's interest. We should like to remind the Prime Minister 
that we are violently against nuclear proliferation." 

The President also reminded Eshkol that the Soviet Union 
was becoming more of a factor in the Middle East, and an 
Israeli reassurance on Dimona could go a long way toward 
keeping the Russians out. Komer summarized the issue for the 
President on the day after the Eshkol meeting: "Peres said yes- 
terday Israel wasn't worried so much about present UAR mis- 
siles but about better stuff Soviets might give Nasser. This is 
our whole point too — if Nasser thinks Israel is getting better 
missiles than he has, and is not reassured on Dimona, he'll be 
forced to pay Soviet price to get missiles. Therefore, you urge 
Eshkol to agree both to Dimona reassurances, and to IAEA 
controls. These two acts would help diminish Nasser's incen- 
tive to get exotic weapons help from the USSR. Eshkol's argu- 
ment, 'Why reassure an enemy?' is short-sighted." 

Komer added, "All in all, we understand why Israel, being 
under the gun, is more fearful of its future than Washington. 
But Israel can count on us. All we ask in return is that Israel 
recognize our Arab interests and our common aim of keeping 
the Soviets out of the Middle East." 

Israel, of course, was willing to play along in any way to get 
more American arms. But it would never "count" on America 
to protect its future. Komer's comment referred to the main 
message of the June i summit meeting, one that echoed the 
assurances that John Kennedy had privately given Golda Meir 
two years earlier: the United States would become Israel's sup- 
plier of arms as long as Israel did not produce nuclear weapons. 
It was this proposal, not found in any of the declassified docu- 
ments in the Johnson Library, that drove the June i summit 
meeting. The White House's offer soon became known to 
David Ben-Gurion and Ernst David Bergmann, who viewed 
any such commitment by the Eshkol government, according to 


a former Israeli official, u as compromising the security of 

Johnson's pleas about IAEA inspection and the sharing of in- 
formation with the Arabs went nowhere, but his promise of 
continued arms support became a factor in what emerged by 
the fall of 1964 as a major strategic issue for the State of Israel: 
when to begin the mass production of a nuclear arsenal. Eshkol 
obviously was far from a pacifist; he had, for example, no am- 
bivalence about continuing Israel's ongoing chemical and bio- 
logical weapons programs. "Maybe he looks now to you as a 
moderate, but he was — like all our leaders then — a pragmatic 
son of a bitch," a former aide recalled with pride. "This was a 
man who grew up in a generation that saw the Holocaust, the 
Communists in Russia, the Arabs — all wanting to destroy 

Eshkol's only doubts about Dimona were practical ones: 
Dimona was costing upward of $500 million a year, more than 
10 percent of the Israeli military budget. It was money not be- 
ing spent elsewhere, the former aide added: "Eshkol would say, 
'I don't have the money for it. How many children will go 
without shoes? How many students will not go to university? 
And there's no threat. None of our neighbors are going nu- 
clear. Why should we go nuclear?' " 

Eshkol's questions led to a series of high-level and highly 
secret conferences on the bomb in late 1964 and early 1965 at the 
Midrasha, a Mossad retreat outside Tel Aviv. The meetings 
were attended by senior officials of the leading Israeli political 
parties, as well as many defense experts. "The issue was not 
whether to go nuclear or not," one participant recalled. "But 

Dimona's supporters had convinced most of the leadership that 
only nuclear weapons could provide the absolute and final de- 
terrent to the Arab threat, and only nuclear weapons could 
convince the Arabs — who were bolstered by rapidly growing 
Soviet economic and military aid — that they must renounce all 
plans for military conquest of Israel and agree to a peace settle- 
ment. With a nuclear arsenal there would be no more Masadas 


in Israel's history, a reference to the decision of more than nine 
hundred Jewish defenders — known as the Zealots — to commit 
suicide in a.d. 73 rather than endure defeat at the hands of the 

In its place, argued the nuclear advocates, would be the Sam- 
son Option. Samson, according to the Bible, had been captured 
by the Philistines after a bloody fight and put on display, with 
his eyes torn out, for public entertainment in Dagon's Temple 
in Gaza. He asked God to give him back his strength for the 
last time and cried out, "Let my soul die with the Philistines." 
With that, he pushed apart the temple pillars, bringing down 
the roof and killing himself and his enemies. For Israel's nu- 
clear advocates, the Samson Option became another way of 
saying "Never again."* 

The basic argument against the nuclear arsenal went beyond 
its impact on the readiness of the military: these were years of 
huge economic growth and business expansion inside Israel, 
and Dimona still was absorbing far too much skilled man- 
power, in the view of many industrial managers — whose con- 
stant complaints to government officials on that issue went 
nowhere. Dimona continued to distort the economy and limit 
development. There was, for example, no private computer in- 
dustry in Israel by the late 1960s, although American intelli- 
gence officials had rated Israel for years as an international 
leader — with Japan and the United States — in the ability to 
design and program computer software. 

The long-range social and military costs of Dimona were 
most certainly the concerns of Yitzhak Rabin, the new army 

* In a 1976 essay in Commentary, Norman Podhoretz accurately summarized the pro- 
nuclear argument in describing what Israel would do if abandoned by the United 
States and overrun by Arabs: "The Israelis would fight . . . with conventional weap- 
ons for as long as they could, and if the tide were turning decisively against them, and 
if help in the form of resupply from the United States or any other guarantors were 
not forthcoming, it is safe to predict that they would fight with nuclear weapons in the 
end. ... It used to be said that the Israelis had a Masada complex . . . but if the 
Israelis are to be understood in terms of a Complex' involving suicide rather than 
surrender and rooted in a relevant precedent of Jewish history, the example of Samson, 
whose suicide brought about the destruction of his enemies, would be more appropri- 
ate than Masada, where in committing suicide the Zealots killed only themselves and 
took no Romans with them." Podhoretz, asked years later about his essay, said that his 
conclusions about the Samson Option were just that — his conclusions, and not based 
on any specific information from Israelis or anyone else about Israel's nuclear capabil- 


chief of staff, and Yigal Allon, a close Eshkol adviser and for- 
mer commander of the irregular Palmach forces before the 1948 
War of Independence. Less compelling to the military men was 
the moral argument against the bomb raised by some on the 
left and in academia: that the Jewish people, victims of the 
Holocaust, had an obligation to prevent the degeneration of 
the Arab-Israeli dispute into a war of mass destruction. Those 
who held that view did not underestimate the danger of a con- 
ventional arms race, but believed that, as Simha Flapan, their 
passionate spokesman, wrote, "the qualitative advantages of 
Israel — social cohesion and organization, education and techni- 
cal skills, intelligence and moral incentive — can be brought 
into play only in a conventional war fought by men." 

A major complication in the debate, seemingly, was the Arab 
and Israeli press, which routinely published exaggerated ac- 
counts of each side's weapons of mass destruction. In Israel, 
there were alarmist accounts of Soviet and Chinese support for 
an Egyptian nuclear bomb. Egypt, in turn, publicly suggested 
that it had received a Soviet commitment to come to its aid in 
case of an Israeli nuclear attack, and President Gamal Nasser 
warned in an interview that "preventive war" was the "only 
answer" to a nuclear-armed Israel. It was a period, Simha 
Flapan later wrote, when both Israel and Egypt "were trapped 
in a vicious circle of tension and suspicion and were doing 
everything possible to make them a self-fulfilling prophecy." 

The officials at the top in Israel understood the difference 
between public perceptions and private realities. Before the 
Midrasha conference, for example, Binyamin Blumberg pre- 
pared an analysis estimating that the Arab world would not be 
able to develop sophisticated nuclear weapons for twenty-five 
years — until 1990. The paper was important to Eshkol, who, as 
he told the conference, was considering three postures: a ready- 
to-go bomb in the basement; the nuclear option, with the 
weapons parts manufactured but not assembled; and further 
research. "He said," an Israeli recalled, " 'We're not in a 
hurry. It'll take the Arabs twenty-five years.'" Eshkol's choice 
was to merely continue research and use that added time to 
"jump a stage" — to bypass the crude plutonium weapon deto- 
nated by the United States at Nagasaki and go directly to 


more efficient warhead designs. There was a second compelling 
argument, along with the issue of money, for temporarily lim- 
iting the work at Dimona to research: Israel as yet had no 
long-range aircraft or missiles in place that were capable of 
accurately delivering a bomb to targets inside the Soviet 
Union, which was always Israel's primary nuclear target; no 
Arab nation would dare wage war against Israel, so the Israeli 
leadership thought, without Soviet backing. 

Levi Eshkol parlayed the Midrasha decision into a strategic 
asset: he told Washington that he would defer a decision on the 
nuclear arsenal in return for a commitment to supply offensive 
arms that would match the quality of arms being supplied to 
Egypt by the Soviet Union. It was more than good enough for 
Johnson, who was losing interest with each passing year in 
waging political war with Israel over the bomb. The President 
rewarded Eshkol's pledge of a delay by authorizing the sale to 
Israel in 1966 of forty-eight advanced A-4E Skyhawk tactical 
fighters, capable of carrying a payload of eight thousand 
pounds. Johnson's refusal to ask more of the Israelis on the 
nuclear issue was eased by the strong evidence of renewed So- 
viet economic and military commitments in the Middle East: 
Moscow was moving to encourage Arab socialism and unity. 
For Johnson, this meant that the Cold War was moving to the 
Arab world, with Israel serving as a surrogate for America. 

Eshkol's decision to put a hold on the nuclear issue enraged 
Ben-Gurion, still smarting over the Mapai Party's handling of 
the Lavon Affair; Ben-Gurion eventually would publicly com- 
pare Eshkol to Neville Chamberlain, the British prime minis- 
ter who attempted to appease Adolf Hitler before World War 
II. In June 1965, Ben-Gurion, talking darkly of Eshkol's "endan- 
gering the nation's security," dramatically resigned from the 
Mapai Party and created a new party, known as Rafi (an acro- 
nym for the Israel Workers' List). He was joined by a reluctant 
but loyal Peres, who became Rafi's power broker, and the rest- 
less Dayan, who had recently resigned as agricultural minister. 
Ben-Gurion's hope was that Rafi could capture as many as 
twenty-five seats in the 120-member Knesset and emerge as a 
major power broker in Israeli politics. 


Ben-Gurion and his followers changed forever the political 
structure of Israel. Rafi would now become an opposition 
party, and play the role that had traditionally belonged to 
right-wing groups. Ben-Gurion's immediate reason for split- 
ting with the Mapai leadership was his continued anger over 
Lavon, but the Rafi Party, under Peres's leadership, stood for a 
more aggressive position across the spectrum of defense issues, 
and especially on nuclear weapons. Ernst Bergmann was an- 
other founding member of Rafi, and once again had Ben-Gu- 
rion's ear: "Ben-Gurion was quoting Bergmann all the time," 
recalled an Israeli, about the dangers of not initiating the pro- 
duction of a nuclear arsenal. The issue emerged as a dominant 
one in the 1965 elections, although it was played out in code 
language. Israeli newspapers were full of criticism from Peres 
and Ben-Gurion over what was referred to in Hebrew as ha y a- 
noseh ha'adin, "the sensitive topic," or b'chia ledorot, "a lament 
for generations"; the Rafi leaders also constantly criticized 
what they euphemistically called EshkoPs "big mistake," lan- 
guage understood by many inside Israel as referring to Eshkol's 
hesitations about opening a nuclear weapons assembly line at 
Dimona. None of this was reported by American or other 
newspapers: the foreign correspondents in Israel apparently 
did not understand what really was at stake.* Neither did the 
American intelligence community. 

It was an ugly election, with insults and accusations from all 
parties. One prominent lawyer with close ties to Golda Meir 
referred publicly to Ben-Gurion as a "coward" and Rafi as a 
"neo-Fascist group." Many Israelis understood, in a way that 
no outsider could, that the debate was not only about defense 
policy or the bomb, but about Ben-Gurion's profound belief 
that Israel could survive only by relying on the state — and not 
on the traditional volunteerism of the Zionist movement. In 
Ben-Gurion's view, the kibbutzim, the Mapai Party, the 

* John Finney of the New York Times did a little better with the Floyd Culler inspec- 
tions. Finney, who remained on the nuclear beat for the Times, reported on June 28, 
1966, that the American team had arrived at "the same tentative conclusion as a year 
ago, that the reactor is not being used at this time for producing plutonium for weap- 
ons." The reporter wisely cautioned, however, that the team's conclusion "was tenta- 
tive because it is difficult to establish in once-a-year inspections that none of the reactor 
fuel rods have been removed for extracting the plutonium. . . ." 


Hagannah of the 1948 war — all populated by volunteers who 
believed in the cause — had to give way to the more impersonal 
institutions of universal military service, universal public edu- 
cation, and promotion on the basis of competence and merit 
rather than party affiliation. Many aspects of this debate co- 
alesced — at least for his critics — in Ben-Gurion's unwavering 
support of the nuclear arsenal. Some of his opponents in the 
1965 election viewed Dimona as nothing more than a collection 
of competent scientists and bureaucrats, with unclear ideologi- 
cal affiliations, who had created a powerful weapon away from 
public scrutiny and approval. For many, the election was per- 
haps a last-ditch struggle between an Israel that continued to uti- 
lize the willing spirit of dedicated volunteers and an Israel that 
relied on the use of science, objective knowledge, and the state. 

Ben-Gurion and his Rafi Party were sorely disappointed by 
the election, winning only ten seats in the Knesset, not enough 
to provide Ben-Gurion with a power base. The election 
amounted to a brutal referendum on his dream of returning to 
power, and the end of his role in the public policy of Israel.* 

The election also was interpreted by Levi Eshkol as a refer- 
endum on his handling of the nuclear issue; Dimona would 
remain a standby operation. The country seemingly had re- 
jected the efficient "can do" approach of Ben-Gurion, Dayan, 
and Peres in favor of the social-democratic and volunteerist 
goals of the Meir-Eshkol wing of Mapai. It was a low point for 
Ben-Gurion and his followers. 

By the spring of 1966, Ernst David Bergmann had had 
enough: he resigned under pressure as director of the commis- 
sionerless Israeli Atomic Energy Commission, as well as from 
his two high-level defense science posts. Many in the Eshkol 
cabinet viewed his departure as long overdue, and it showed; 
Bergmann was angered and hurt when a ministry of defense 
official came to his apartment within an hour of his resignation 

* Ben-Gurion was an inveterate diarist and spent many hours in his later years — he 
died in early 1974 — assembling his papers and helping his biographer, Michael Bar- 
Zohar. Myer Feldman recalls being accompanied on one of his last scheduled meetings 
with Ben-Gurion by Teddy Kollek, the mayor of Jerusalem and longtime associate of 
the Old Man. The two men stood waiting as Ben-Gurion scribbled away in his note- 
book. "I said to Kollek, 'What's he doing?' " Feldman recalled. Kollek replied, with a 
smile, "Oh, he's falsifying history." 


to retrieve his government car. Eshkol moved quickly to make 
the Bergmann portfolio less independent: bureaucratic respon- 
sibility for the AEC was shifted from the defense ministry to 
the prime minister's personal staff, and Eshkol himself became 
chairman of an expanded and revitalized commission. Deci- 
sions about the future of nuclear weapons in Israel would now 
be made by the highest political authority. A pouting Berg- 
mann retreated, with the aid of Lewis Strauss, to the Institute 
of Advanced Studies at Princeton University, but not before 
granting an interview to Maariv, the popular Israeli newspa- 
per. The New York Times account of that interview provides a 
classic example of the public doubletalk and doublethink that 
then surrounded the nuclear issue in Israel and the American 
press: "The scientist [Bergmann] suggested that the Eshkol 
Government was less sympathetic to long-term scientific plan- 
ning than former Premier David Ben-Gurion, with whom Pro- 
fessor Bergmann was closely associated. He spoke of the lack of 
funds for research and the risk of dependence on foreign 

Nonetheless, the nuclear weapons issue, even if depicted as 
"long-term scientific planning," had moved into the open in- 
side Israel. In the United States, where all foreign policy was 
rapidly becoming consumed by the Vietnam War, Israel's nu- 
clear option continued to be an issue solely for government 
insiders, who weren't talking. 


Playing the Game 

The ambivalence and hypocrisy at the top of the 
American government about a nuclear-armed Israel inevitably 
was mirrored by the bureaucracy. By the middle 1960s, the 
game was fixed: President Johnson and his advisers would pre- 
tend that the American inspections amounted to proof that 
Israel was not building the bomb, leaving unblemished Ameri- 
ca's newly reaffirmed support for nuclear nonproliferation. 

The men and women analyzing intelligence data and writing 
reports for their higher-ups understood, as Arthur Lundahl 
and Dino Brugioni had learned earlier, that there was little to 
be gained by relaying information that those at the top did not 
want to know. Nonetheless, the information was there. 

There was much known, for example, about the Israeli 
Jericho missiles, rapidly being assembled by Dassault. "We had 
a direct line to God," a middle-level CIA technical analyst re- 
called. "We had everything — not only from the French but also 
from the Israelis. We stole some and we had spies. I was able to 
draw a scale model of the system. I even designed three war- 
heads for it — nuclear, chemical, and HE [high explosive] — as a 
game. We were predicting what they could do." What Israel 
could do, the former CIA official said, was successfully target 
and fire a nuclear warhead. The problem arose in conveying 
the intelligence. "I was never able to get anything officially 
published" by the CIA for distribution throughout the govern- 
ment, he said. "Everybody knew" about the Israeli missile, he 
added, "but nobody would talk about it." The official said he 
decided to bootleg a copy of the intelligence report — risking his 
job by doing so — to senior officials in the Pentagon and State 
Department. "I remember briefing a DIA [Defense Intelli- 


gence Agency] admiral. He wasn't ready to believe it. I got him 
turned around, but he retired and no one else cared." 

Even James Jesus Angleton, the CIA's director of counter- 
intelligence, who also was responsible for liaison with Israel, 
had his problems when it came to the Israeli bomb. The moody 
Angleton was legendary — and feared — for his insistence on se- 
crecy and his paranoia about Soviet penetration of the Agency. 
He was a master of backchannel and "eyes only" reports, and 
his increasing inability to deal with the real world eventually 
led to his firing in late 1974, but his glaring faults in counter- 
intelligence apparently did not spill over to Israel* Former 
Agency officials, who, in prior interviews with me, had been 
unsparing in their criticism of Angleton's bizarre methods in 
counterintelligence, acknowledged that he had performed cor- 
rectly and proficiently in his handling of Israel. Angleton had 
worked closely with members of the Jewish resistance in Italy 
while serving with the Office of Strategic Services (OSS) at the 
end of World War II; it was a dramatic period when thousands 
of Jewish refugees and concentration camp survivors were be- 
ing illicitly funneled from Europe into Palestine, then under 
British control. 

One of Angleton's closest colleagues was Meir (Meme) 
Deshalit, a resistance leader and Israeli intelligence official who 
had been posted to Washington in 1948. Deshalit was the older 
brother of Amos Deshalit, the physicist who had done much to 
develop Israel's nuclear arsenal before dying of cancer in 1969. 
Angleton shared Meir Deshalit's view of the Soviet and Arab 

* The first prominent public mention of Angleton's role in counterintelligence 
came in a major front-page expose by the author in the New York Times of December 22, 
1974. The story linked Angleton and his office to Operation chaos, the massive and 
illegal spying by the CIA on antiwar dissidents in America. Angleton, in a telephone 
conversation with me before the story was published, suggested that he could provide 
better stories, dealing with Communist penetration of the antiwar movement and CIA 
operatives in the Soviet Union, if the domestic spying story was not published. On the 
day of its publication, a Sunday, as I later wrote in the Times, Angleton telephoned me 
very early at home and complained that Cecily, his wife of thirty-one years, had 
learned only by reading my story that her husband was not a postal employee, as 
Angleton claimed he had told her. He added: "And now she's left me." The call shook 
me up; the upset in his voice seemed real. I mumbled something about a newsman's 
responsibility to the truth, hung up, and telephoned an old friend who had served in 
the CIA with Angleton. He laughingly told me that Cecily of course had known from 
the beginning what her husband did for a living, and had left him three years earlier to 
move to Arizona, only to return. 


threat to Israel; his personal contacts and strong feelings made 
him the logical choice to handle liaison between the CIA and 
the Israeli government. His was one of the most important 
assignments in the 1950s and early 1960s, the height of the Cold 
War, because of the continuing flow of Soviet and Eastern Eu- 
ropean refugees into Israel. Angleton and his Israeli counter- 
parts ran the "rat lines," as the Jewish refugee link became 
known. It was the Jewish refugee operations, as many in the 
CIA understood, that provided the West in the early postwar 
years with its most important insights into the Soviet bloc. 
Some of the programs were financed off the shelf by CIA con- 
tingency funds, as part of kk mountain. 

Angleton's love for Israel and his shared views on the Arab 
and Soviet question, however, did not keep him from investi- 
gating, as a counterintelligence officer, any Israeli or American 
Jew he suspected of trafficking in classified information. One of 
the big question marks was nuclear technology. The CIA knew 
from its analysis of the fallout of the ongoing French nuclear 
tests in the Sahara that the increasingly modernized and minia- 
turized French warheads were based on United States design. 
A former American nuclear intelligence official recalled that he 
and his colleagues "were driven crazy" by the suspicion that 
Israel's quid pro quo for the French help at Dimona included 
access to design information purloined from the government's 
nuclear laboratories at Los Alamos and Livermore, California. 

No evidence of such a link was found, but intelligence com- 
munity investigators were surprised to discover at the end of 
the chaos inquiry a cache of Angleton's personal files, secured 
with black tape, that revealed what obviously had been a long- 
running — and highly questionable — study of American Jews in 
the government. The files showed that Angleton had con- 
structed what amounted to a matrix of the position and Jewish- 
ness of senior officials in the CIA and elsewhere who had access 
to classified information of use to Israel. Someone in a sensitive 
position who was very active in Jewish affairs in his personal 
life, or perhaps had family members who were Zionists, scored 
high on what amounted to a Jewishness index. 

One government investigator, talking about the Angleton 
files in a 1991 interview, recalled his surprise at discovering that 


even going to synagogue was a basis for suspicion. "I remem- 
bered the First Amendment," the investigator added sardoni- 
cally. "You know, Freedom of Religion." The Angleton matrix 
suggested that at some point a suspect who measured high 
enough on the Jewishness scale was subjected to a full-bore 
field investigation. "Was there simply a background check, or 
was there physical or electronic surveillance?" the investigator 
asked rhetorically. "I don't know. I was angry but at the same 
time thought it wasn't irrational because a lot of Jews were 
giving help to Israel." In the end, the Angleton files were not 
investigated further or even brought to the attention of the 
House or Senate intelligence committees: "We decided not to 
do anything with it." 

Samuel Halpern, a Jew who served for years as executive 
assistant to the director of the CIA's clandestine services, was 
under constant investigation by Angleton. Halpern's position, 
the highest reached by any Jew in the clandestine service, gave 
him access to the name and background of every foreigner who 
had ever been recruited by the CIA. His father, Hanoch, was a 
Pole who had become active in Zionism before World War II 
and, after emigrating to Palestine, had worked closely with 
Ben-Gurion and Moshe Sharett, among others, after the State 
of Israel was formed in 1948. "Jim looked at me real hard," 
Halpern recalled with a laugh, "but I told him, 'I'm not going 
to muck up your desk.' The Israelis never approached me. Why 
should they when I'm sitting on the third floor [of the CIA] and 
Jim's on the second?" 

Angleton did more than just collect information on Ameri- 
can Jews. He also was a sponsor, through the chaos program, 
of a highly secret CIA operation involving the Agency's pur- 
chase of a Washington trash collection company. The firm, 
known in the CIA as a proprietary, had contracts to pick up 
garbage at various Third World embassies, including the Israeli 
embassy. Another of its stops was the downtown Washington 
offices of B'nai B'rith, the powerful Jewish social and volunteer 
organization with worldwide activities. The trash would be 
systematically sorted and analyzed for any possible intelli- 


Angleton's close personal ties with the Deshalit family and oth- 
ers in Israel made it inevitable that he would learn about the 
construction in the Negev. One senior official recalled that An- 
gleton's first intelligence report on Israel's plans to build the 
bomb was filed routinely in the late 1950s, and not by backchan- 
nel, and thus could be made available to those who needed to 
know inside the CIA's Directorate of Operations, the unit re- 
sponsible for clandestine action. "I have no idea who his 
sources were," the senior official said. "He probably never told 
the director." Over the next few years Angleton continued to 
produce intelligence on Dimona, also based on information 
supplied by his personal contacts, but never learned — or, at 
least, never reported — the extent to which Israel was deceiving 
Washington about its nuclear weapons progress. 

Angleton, of course, had been given periodic briefings in the 
late 1950s and early 1960s by Lundahl or Brugioni on the intelli- 
gence collected by the U-2 overflights of the Negev, but never 
evinced much interest. His forte was human intelligence, or 
humint, as the intelligence community calls it, and not techni- 
cal intelligence, such as the U-2 imagery. u He was a real funny 
guy," Brugioni recalled. "I'd meet with him, brief him; he'd ask 
a few questions, you'd leave — and never know what he's hold- 
ing. Sometimes he'd have his office real dark and have a light 
only on you. He was a real spook." 

For all of his mystique and freedom to operate, Angleton, 
too, was stymied by the Israeli bomb. His reports on Dimona, 
buttressed by the U-2 data, did not even result in an official 
CIA estimate that Israel was going nuclear. Such formal esti- 
mates, which are distributed to the President and other key 
government officials, were the responsibility of analysts in the 
CIA's Office of National Estimates (ONE). "Ji m kept saying, 
'Yes, they've got it,' and the analysts would say, 'I don't believe 
it,' " one former intelligence official recalled. The analysts sim- 
ply did not think Angleton's humint sources were reliable, the 
official said, adding that tension and second-guessing over hu- 
man intelligence sources were a way of life in the CIA. By 1965, 
an extensive dossier of humint reports on Dimona had built up, 
the official said, and the nuclear issue was again raised with the 


ONE analysts: "They told me that even if Israel did have the 
bomb, they'd never use it." 

The intelligence official, recalling the issue in an interview, 
got angry again at the analysts: "They were so stupid. You'd 
have to put the bomb under their noses before they'd believe it. 
They didn't have any understanding of Israel; didn't know 
what made them think. They were so stupid." 

It is not known how many CIA analyses on the Israeli bomb 
were produced in the early 1960s by the Office of National Esti- 
mates, but the one memorandum that does exist was astonish- 
ingly inept about Israeli attitudes. The paper, entitled 
"Consequences of Israeli Acquisition of Nuclear Capability," 
was dated March 6, 1963, and was made available nearly twenty 
years later at the John F. Kennedy Library without any dele- 
tions. The national estimate concluded that Israel, once having 
attained a nuclear capability, "would use all the means at its 
command to persuade the U.S. to acquiesce in, and even to 
support, its possession. . . . Israel could be expected to use the 
argument that this possession entitled it to participate in all 
international negotiations respecting nuclear questions and dis- 
armament." The staggering flaw in the CIA analysis was its 
basic assumption: that Israel would make public or otherwise 
let its nuclear capability become officially known. The reality 
was precisely the opposite: Israel had no intention of going 
public with the bomb in fear of American and worldwide Jew- 
ish disapproval that would result in international reprobation 
and diminished financial support from the Diaspora. 

Such flawed intelligence analyses went a long way toward 
keeping the men at the top officially ignorant of what no one 
wanted to know. In public, the Johnson administration, as 
were its predecessors, was firmly opposed to the spread of nu- 
clear weapons anywhere in the world; official acknowledgment 
of an Israeli bomb would have presented Washington with an 
unwanted dilemma — either sanction Israel or be accused of a 
nuclear double standard. 

Israel was not considered a nuclear weapons state on Octo- 
ber 18, 1964, when China exploded its long-awaited first nuclear 
bomb. President Johnson, three weeks away from his over- 


whelming election triumph over Senator Barry Goldwater of 
Arizona, the Republican presidential candidate, reaffirmed his 
commitment to nonproliferation in a nationally televised 
speech: "Until this week, only four powers [the United States, 
the Soviet Union, Great Britain, and France] had entered the 
dangerous world of nuclear explosions. Whatever their differ- 
ences, all four are sober and serious states, with long experi- 
ence as major powers in the modern world. Communist China 
has no such experience. . . . [Its] expensive and demanding 
effort tempts other states to equal folly," the President said. 
"Nuclear spread is dangerous to all mankind. . . . [W]e must 
continue to work against it, and we will."* 

The President may have believed his impassioned words, but 
not all of his senior advisers did. Six weeks later, McGeorge 
Bundy, Robert McNamara, and Secretary of State Dean Rusk 
discussed what they considered the administration's real policy 
options at a secret meeting on nonproliferation. Among those 
taking careful notes was Glenn T. Seaborg, chairman of the 
Atomic Energy Commission, who recounted the session in his 
little-noted 1987 memoir, Stemming the Tide: 

"Rusk said he thought a basic question was whether we re- 
ally should have a nonproliferation policy prescribing that no 
countries beyond the present five might acquire nuclear weap- 
ons. Were we clear that this should be a major objective of U.S. 
policy? For example, might we not want to be in a position 
where India or Japan would be able to respond with nuclear 
weapons to a Chinese threat? Rusk mentioned the possibility of 
having an Asian group of nuclear weapons countries, pointing 
out that the real issue was among Asian countries and not be- 
tween northern countries and the Asians. 

"McNamara thought it would take decades for India or Ja- 
pan to have any appreciable deterrent. Nevertheless, he 

# Johnson also reassured the nation that his administration had not been surprised 
by the Chinese test. The President perhaps did not know it at the time of his talk, but 
the American intelligence community was aghast to learn from air sampling that the 
Chinese bomb had been fueled by enriched uranium, and not, as predicted by the CIA, 
by far-easier-to-produce plutonium. The American guess had been that China would 
chemically reprocess plutonium from the spent uranium rods in a reactor, as at 
Dimona. Confronted with evidence to the contrary, some in the CIA believed that 
China might have stolen or otherwise misappropriated the enriched uranium for its 


thought the question Rusk had raised should be studied. He 
pointed out that adoption of a nonproliferation policy by the 
United States might require us to guarantee the security of 
nations that renounced nuclear weapons. 

"I [Seaborg] expressed doubt that a policy condoning further 
proliferation should be considered, saying that, once a process 
of making exceptions was started, we would lose control and 
that this would inevitably lead to serious trouble. . . . 

"Bundy warned about the need to keep very quiet the fact 
that we were discussing the basic questions of whether U.S. 
policy should be nonproliferation, because everyone assumed 
that this was our policy. Any intimation to the contrary would 
be very disturbing throughout the world. McNamara added 
that we had to the stop the leaks that come out of meetings like 
this. He agreed with Bundy that the fact that the U.S. commit- 
ment to nonproliferation was being questioned simply must 
not be allowed to leak."* 

One senior American who resisted the persuasive talk about 
expanding the nuclear club was John McCone, the increasingly 
frustrated CIA director. McCone sorely felt the loss of John 
Kennedy; his relationship with Lyndon Johnson was much less 
intimate and his advice not always welcome. McCone's solu- 
tion to the Chinese bomb (and to the problems with North 
Vietnam) was to send in the Air Force. "McCone just raised 
hell" about the Chinese bomb, recalled Walt Elder. "He wanted 
permission to fly U-2S over the test site and was turned down." 
The CIA director wasn't daunted: he next floated "the idea of 
what if we got in and took out the Chinese capability?" Daniel 
Ellsberg recalled similar talk at high levels in the Pentagon: 
"We were saying, in essence, that if we could have stopped the 

* Rusk carried his fight to other bureaucratic forums, with the focus on a nuclear 
India. Daniel Ellsberg recalled being told by his Pentagon superiors after the Chinese 
test in 1964 that Rusk's position was that "India needed a nuclear weapon as a deterrent 
and there was no reason for them not to have it." Rusk's basic approach, Ellsberg 
added, was "Why shouldn't our friends have nuclear weapons now that our enemies 
have them?" It should be noted that there was no mention of this extraordinary debate 
in McGeorge Bundy's seemingly comprehensive history of the atom bomb, Danger and 
Survival, published in 1988. India's drive for the bomb, wrote Bundy, "remains a doubt- 
ful prize in that something about this apocalyptically destructive standard of greatness 
is not truly Indian." Bundy could have added that there were a few Americans in high 
Washington positions in 1964 who had no doubt then that India's desire for the bomb 
was quite truly Indian. 


Russian bomb, we would have saved the world a lot of trouble. 
It's too bad the Soviets got the bomb." One thought was to use 
unmarked bombers to strike at the Chinese, thus avoiding iden- 
tification. Cooler heads prevailed, Ellsberg recalled: "The mis- 
sion just looked too big to be plausibly denied." 

McCone resigned as CIA director in 1965, despite his support 
for Johnson's continuing escalations in Vietnam. He explained 
to a colleague: "When I cannot get the President to read my 
reports, then it's time to go." McCone knew that Floyd Culler's 
inspections were accomplishing little; he also understood what 
Israel's continuing refusal to permit full-fledged international 
inspections meant. But, said Elder, the CIA director found that 
Johnson "didn't understand the implications" of the inspection 
issue and didn't want to hear about it. By the end of McCone's 
tenure, Elder added, he believed Lyndon Johnson as President 
had three basic concerns: "His standing in polls. 'Can I sell it to 
Congress?' And 'How can I get out of Vietnam?' " 

There was yet another concern: Johnson's understanding that 
good nonproliferation policies made for bad politics. The Presi- 
dent needed no one to remind him that any serious move to 
squeeze the Israelis on their nuclear weapons program would 
lead to a firestorm of protest from American Jews, many of 
whose leaders had consistently supported his presidency and 
the Vietnam War. He got another reminder of the political 
danger of nonproliferation from a special panel on that subject 
he convened a few weeks after the Chinese test. The distin- 
guished panel, headed by Roswell L. Gilpatric, who had served 
John Kennedy as deputy secretary of defense, returned on Jan- 
uary 21, 1965 — the day after Johnson's inauguration — with a re- 
port that amounted to an indictment of past and present 
policy.* It warned that the world was "fast approaching a point 
of no return" in opportunities for controlling the spread of 
nuclear weapons and urged the President, "as a matter of great 
urgency, [to] substantially increase the scope and intensity of 
our effort if we are to have any hope of success." The report 

* Panel members included the retired Allen Dulles, the former secretary of state 
Dean Acheson, the former defense secretary Robert A. Lovett, the former White 
House science adviser George B. Kistiakowsky, and IBM chairman Arthur K. Watson. 


also advocated the establishment of nuclear-free zones in Latin 
America, Africa, and the Middle East, including Israel and 
Egypt. Most significantly, it suggested that the President 
should reconsider — in terms of nonproliferation — a controver- 
sial American plan to create a multilateral force (MLF) that 
would give NATO members, including the West Germans, a 
joint finger on the nuclear trigger. The raising of any question 
about the MLF issue was especially sensitive, for the Soviet 
Union was insisting that any proposed nonproliferation treaty 
prohibit a separate European nuclear force, which it viewed as 
nothing more than a vehicle for providing the West Germans 
with the bomb. 

At a White House meeting with the President, individual 
members of the panel listed a sweeping series of priorities — 
including encouraging France to turn its force de frappe into a 
NATO nuclear missile battery — that prompted the President 
to note caustically, according to Glenn Seaborg, that imple- 
mentation of the committee's report would be u a very pleasant 
undertaking." Johnson and his aides at the meeting, who in- 
cluded McGeorge Bundy and Dean Rusk, warned Gilpatric 
and the committee members not to discuss the report with any 
outsiders or even to acknowledge that a written document had 
been presented to the White House (the Gilpatric report re- 
mains highly classified today). Seaborg, who attended the meet- 
ing, noted in his memoir that Rusk, when asked by the 
President for his views, depicted the report as being "as explo- 
sive as a nuclear weapon." Its premature release, Rusk added, 
"could start the ball rolling in an undesirable manner" — in 
terms of the MLF and future negotiations on a nonprolifera- 
tion treaty. The report went nowhere, despite the President's 
promise of further consultations with Gilpatric. 

Political disaster, from the White House's point of view, 
struck in June, when newly elected Senator Robert Kennedy 
based his maiden Senate floor speech on many of the until then 
unknown and ignored recommendations of Gilpatric's panel. 
Kennedy, often invoking his dead brother, urged the President 
to rise above the immediate issues and begin dealing with nu- 
clear proliferation: "Upon the success of this effort depends the 
only future our children will have. The need to halt the spread 


of nuclear weapons must be a central priority of American 
policy." Kennedy specifically called for Johnson to immedi- 
ately open worldwide negotiations for a comprehensive test 
ban treaty; such talks, he proposed, should include Communist 
China, one of North Vietnam's allies, and he indirectly criti- 
cized Johnson for his preoccupation with Vietnam by stating: 
"We cannot allow the demands of day-to-day policy to obstruct 
our efforts to solve the problems of nuclear spread. We cannot 
wait for peace in the Southeast — which will not come until 
nuclear weapons spread beyond recall."* Johnson, of course, 
was made apoplectic by what he was convinced was Gilpatric's 
leaking of the report to Kennedy and responded by deleting 
material on nonproliferation from a speech he was scheduled to 
deliver the day after the Kennedy speech. Over the next 
months, Glenn Seaborg recalled, there was nothing more heard 
about the Gilpatric report from the White House, and non- 
proliferation continued to be treated as a topic fit only for the 
arms controllers in the Arms Control and Disarmament 
Agency (ACDA), whose advice — no matter how prudent — 
rarely carried weight with the White House. President John- 
son held out for two years before agreeing in secret talks with 
the Soviets to drop the MLF, clearing the way for the 1968 
Nonproliferation Treaty and giving the government's arms 
controllers an important victory. 

In the mid-1960s, the Soviet Union had begun to step up its 
military and economic aid programs in the Middle East, and 
Israel was increasingly seen by the Johnson White House as a 
regional American bulwark. It was inevitable that high-level 
interest in the perennial and profitless issue of international 
inspection for Dimona began to wane in 1967 — as the A-4E 
Skyhawks began arriving in Israel, as the routine Floyd Culler 
inspections proceeded, and as America got more and more en- 
meshed in the Southeast Asian war. 

* Kennedy also warned that Israel and India "already possess weapons-grade fission- 
able material, and could fabricate an atomic device within a few months." Further 
Israeli progress on the bomb, he added, "would certainly impel the Egyptians to inten- 
sify their present efforts." The senator's remarks caused a sensation in Israel, but were 
little noted elsewhere. The New York Timers page-one account of the Kennedy speech 
included no mention of Israel. 


There were strong public clues, nonetheless, that Israel 
never stopped planning to build its bombs. In mid-1966, the 
Israeli government delayed in accepting nearly $60 million in 
possible American aid for the construction of a much-needed 
nuclear desalinization and power plant because the aid was 
contingent on an Israeli commitment to permit IAEA inspec- 
tion of Dimona. Johnson and Eshkol had announced a prelimi- 
nary agreement to build the plant in 1964, amid much fanfare, 
and subsequent studies showed the facility could produce two 
hundred megawatts of power and 100 million gallons of de- 
salted water daily. Continued American insistence on IAEA 
inspections made the Israelis walk away, without any explicit 
explanation, from the project. The proposed desalinization 
plant was studied for the next decade, but the American condi- 
tions were never accepted, and the plant was never built. The 
pro-nuclear advocates in the Rafi Party, including Peres and 
Bergmann, urged Israel to refuse American aid for the plant 
and publicly accused the United States of attempting to violate 
Israeli sovereignty by linking its support to Dimona's IAEA 

Privately, Peres and Bergmann — still influential, although 
out of office — suspected that the United States had a hidden 
agenda in its support of the nuclear desalinization plant: to 
divert Israeli funds, manpower, and resources from Israel's nu- 
clear arsenal, in the hope that Israel would at some point be 
forced to make a choice between nuclear weapons and nuclear 

A second clue came in July 1966, during a debate in the Knes- 
set on the most recent inspection of Dimona by Floyd Culler, 
whose conclusion — that there was still no evidence of a bomb 
facility — had again been made available by American officials 
to John Finney of the New York Times and, so some Israelis 
thought, also to Egypt. During the debate, Shimon Peres told 
of his recent participation at an international conference on 
nuclear weapons where, he said, the Middle East was discussed: 
"I found that there is unfortunately no possibility of limiting 
the spread of nuclear weapons in the near future — not because 
of Israel, but because big powers are not agreeing among them- 
selves. ... I was glad to discover that most experts on the 


subject do not believe it possible to envisage nuclear disarma- 
ment for the Middle East in isolation from the conventional 
arms race. . . ."* Peres was, in essence, defending Israel's deci- 
sion not to give in to Washington's IAEA inspection demands 
on the ground that the Arabs had conventional superiority. 
The same argument — Warsaw Pact tank and troop superiority 
— had been used a few years earlier by the United States and its 
allies to justify the deployment of nuclear missiles in Europe. 
By the late 1960s, much of the United States' primary analy- 
sis of nuclear intelligence had been shifted from the CIA to the 
design and engineering laboratories for nuclear weapons at Los 
Alamos and Sandia and, later, Livermore, where intelligence 
units dealing with the Soviet Union and China had been set up 
after World War II. The growing danger of proliferation be- 
came starkly clear during the Kennedy administration, when a 
group of scientists awaiting clearance before beginning work at 
Los Alamos successfully designed a nuclear bomb from the 
open literature. The laboratories' primary targets continued to 
be the reactors and research centers in the Soviet Union and 
China, but the intelligence units eventually began monitoring 
the transfer of nuclear technology and those countries that 
were viewed as "nth" nations, as near-nuclear countries came 
to be known. "We had tremendous data" that went beyond 
satellite photography and intercepted communications, a 
closely involved official said. "We had people who had worked 
inside plants in the USSR and China. We were even able to do 
mock-ups of their weapons system — go from the warhead back 
through the plant. As part of the drill, I was required to sum- 
marize who's got the bomb and who was next, in near-term 
capability." Israel was always at the top of his list, the official 
recalled, followed by South Africa. "We were watching the re- 
lationship between France and Israel and between Israel and 
South Africa," he added. "Those were the links." 

* Peres misstated the conference's findings. His Knesset statement was initially re- 
ported in Israel and Nuclear Weapons, by Fuad Jabber, published in 1971 by the Interna- 
tional Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) in London. Jabber wrote that the 
conference, known as the International Assembly on Nuclear Weapons and sponsored 
in part by the IISS, had, in fact, issued a call for "a serious effort" to negotiate a 
nuclear-free zone in the Middle East. The assembly took place June 23-26, 1966, in 
Toronto, Canada. 


His assignment also included monitoring the flow of ura- 
nium ore into Israel from supplier nations such as Argentina 
and South Africa. Such ore, known as yellowcake, served as the 
raw fuel for the heavy-water reactor at Dimona; by the mid- 
1960s, its sale was a highly competitive and profitable business 
whose transfer in lots under ten tons was not monitored by the 
IAEA in Vienna. The first known shipment of ore from South 
Africa to Israel had arrived in 1963 and, since it totaled ten tons, 
was duly reported. In subsequent years, however, clandestine 
shipments of South African yellowcake began to arrive at 
Dimona, often escorted by a special operations unit of the Is- 
raeli Defense Force. Israel's goal was to prevent outsiders from 
learning that the reactor was operating at two to three times 
greater capacity than publicly acknowledged, utilizing that 
much more uranium ore — and therefore capable of reproces- 
sing greater amounts of plutonium. At least some of those later 
clandestine shipments from South Africa became known in the 
late 1960s to the intelligence officers in Los Alamos and Sandia, 
who were carefully watching — by satellites and other means — 
most of the major uranium mines in the world. But after Is- 
rael's overwhelming victory in the 1967 Six-Day War, the intel- 
ligence about Dimona and its nuclear potential became highly 
compartmentalized, as the White House decided to side more 
openly with Israel in the Middle East, and thus much harder to 
access. "We knew about the yellowcake," the official recalled, 
"but we weren't allowed to keep a file on it. It simply wasn't 
part of the record. Anytime we began to follow it, somebody in 
the system would say, 'That's not relevant.' " 

The U-2 was still flying, but Lundahl and Brugioni had gone 
on to new assignments in photo interpretation and were no 
longer directly involved in Israeli nuclear matters. Far more 
intelligence was being collected by America's corona and gam- 
bit satellite systems, which, after much trial and error, had by 
the mid-1960s begun consistently to produce high-resolution 
photography from their orbital perches in outer space. Any 
interesting intelligence on Israel was now being routed to 
Livermore and Los Alamos through the CIA's Office of Science 
and Technology, headed by Carl E. Duckett, to which Lundahl's 
National Photo Interpretation Center was now reporting. 


Duckett, a college dropout, had been recruited to the Agency 
in 1963 from the Army's Missile Command headquarters at the 
Redstone Arsenal in Alabama. As a civilian Army expert on 
Soviet missile systems, he had been regularly consulted in prior 
years by Lundahl and Brugioni on U-2 photo intelligence, but 
had been told nothing about the findings on Dimona. That 
process reversed once Duckett joined the CIA, where he got his 
own special access to the Israeli intelligence. In the beginning, 
Brugioni recalled, there were long meetings in the late after- 
noon, usually over a few drinks, at which Duckett and his col- 
leagues would openly discuss the day's findings. Eventually 
those faded away. Duckett was a quick study, Brugioni said: 
"By the mid-1960s, it was all his baby." Lundahl and Brugioni 
soon came to understand that Duckett was no longer sharing 
all of his information about the Israeli bomb — the U-2's spy 
flights were no longer as important, and there was no longer 
any need for them to know. It was the end of an era. 

The screening out of Lundahl and Brugioni was perhaps 
more of a loss than Duckett and his colleagues in the Office of 
Science and Technology could understand: those two were the 
institutional memory of the U-2 intelligence on Dimona — al- 
most none of which had been reduced to writing prior to i960. 
"Duckett knew very little about what went on before," Bru- 
gioni said. "He never asked me and I never told him. Lundahl 
always said, 'This is very, very sensitive.' " In subsequent 
years, even the most senior officials of the American govern- 
ment would learn little about the pre-1960 U-2 flights over 
Dimona; the lack of written history meant that there was noth- 
ing in the files. It was the first of many disconnects that would 
come to dominate the processing of U.S. intelligence on 


The Ambassador 

Walworth Barbour, the American ambassador to 
Israel, was a compelling presence to the Israelis — a tall, shy, 
hugely overweight diplomat with a gluttonous appetite and 
acute emphysema. He constantly sprayed his throat with a va- 
porizer, wore yellowing white suits with brown-and-white 
shoes, and walked with a shambling gait, an outsized Sydney 
Greenstreet. Barbour spoke no Hebrew and by the end of 
his stay in Israel still had little to do with the people of the 
country, rarely attending educational, cultural, or social 
events. And yet he was beloved by Israel's leadership, and had 
been since his appointment in 1961 by John F. Kennedy; he 
remained on the job for the next twelve years. Only three 
American ambassadors ever served longer in one post.* A life- 
long bachelor, Barbour retired quietly in 1973, along with his 
spinster sister, to the family home in Gloucester, Massachu- 
setts, taking with him an extensive knowledge of Israel's nu- 
clear capability. 

Barbour's long assignment as ambassador was not a testa- 
ment to his intelligence and competence, which were excep- 
tional, but to his understanding of when and when not to 
accept every Israeli assertion at face value and his willingness 
to operate the American embassy as a subsidiary, if necessary, 
of the Israeli foreign ministry. The ambassador often reminded 
his questioning subordinates that he was not a servant of the 
Department of State or its secretary, but a President's man 

# The State Department's historical office lists George P. Marsh, minister to Italy 
from 1861 to 1882; Edwin V. Morgan, ambassador to Brazil from 1912 to 1933; and Claude 
G. Bowers, ambassador to Chile from 1939 to 1953. 


with a personal mandate in an important embassy — a function- 
ary who would stand aside when ordered to do so, and permit 
the White House and the Israeli ambassador to Washington to 
run the real policy behind his back. 

A graduate of Exeter and Harvard, Barbour was unfailingly 
courteous and correct to his subordinates, and in his first six 
years as ambassador, when some of the most accurate reporting 
on Dimona was forwarded to Washington, rarely interfered 
with the job of those working in his embassy. But the field 
reports had no impact; they simply disappeared into the bu- 
reaucratic maze. Barbour did nothing to keep them alive, and 
after the 1967 Six-Day War ordered his staff — over the objection 
of one key aide — to stop reporting on nuclear weapons in 
Israel. Barbour's assignment at that moment was to insulate 
Lyndon Johnson and his men from those facts that would com- 
pel action, and he did his President's bidding. He was the best, 
and the worst, of American diplomacy. 

Barbour's important role in the history of U.S.-Israeli rela- 
tions — and his knowledge of Israel's nuclear capability — was 
hidden by his insistence on a low profile. He was a virtual 
nonperson to the American correspondents assigned to Israel; 
he rarely met with them, unlike most ambassadors, and he 
never spoke on the record. His name occurs only six times in 
the New York Times Index for the years 1961 to 1966, a period of 
political turmoil in which the United States, after intense dip- 
lomatic activity, emerged as Israel's chief arms supplier. His 
reclusiveness was legendary in his embassy, a five-story build- 
ing located near the beach at Tel Aviv. Barbour's daily pattern 
was inviolate, and interrupted only by international crises or 
the visits of the traveling secretary of state and senior White 
House advisers: he was chaufFered to the embassy's basement 
garage around nine in the morning, rode an elevator to his top- 
floor office, stayed there until noon, rode the elevator down to 
the garage, and returned home. There were afternoon rounds 
of golf, weather permitting, dips in his pool, and an occasional 
evening of bridge. When Barbour did entertain — he did so less 
frequently over the years — his guests often included prominent 
visiting Jews, such as Abe Feinberg and Victor Rothschild of 


London.* Such events, Barbour once explained to William N. 
Dale, who arrived in 1964 as deputy chief of mission, were his 
way of fulfilling a direct assignment from Lyndon Johnson: 
"I'm here under orders from Johnson, who told me, 'I don't 
care a thing about what happens to Israel, but your job is to 
keep the Jews off my back.' Everything I do is designed to keep 
Jews off the President's back," Barbour added. "To keep them 
happy." He told another newcomer to the embassy, upon being 
asked why he did not respond to messages from the State De- 
partment, "I go back to Washington every year to see the Presi- 
dent and I get my orders directly from him — not from those 
pipsqueaks [at State]." Barbour also was phobic about using a 
newly installed State Department telephone scrambler system, 
designed to protect conversations from being intercepted. "If 
they can talk to you over a secure telephone line," he told an 
aide, "then you have to do what they want." He repeatedly 
urged Bill Dale to send embassy reports by mail, especially if 
the intelligence was adverse to Israeli interests, because "Israel 
has friends all over the State Department" and would intercept 
the information. 

Most junior members of the embassy staff had no contact 
with the ambassador and could go for months or longer with- 
out even seeing him; Barbour's weekly staff meetings were only 
for senior subordinates. One personal aide recalled being asked 
by Barbour in 1967, six years after he became ambassador, 
whether it was possible to cash a check in the embassy. "He 
had never been on the second floor," the aide added, where the 
cashier's office was located. Still, many subordinates viewed 
him with awe. "He was the finest man I've ever known in the 
government," said John L. Hadden, who served as CIA station 
chief in Tel Aviv in the mid-1960s. "He was a real professional. 
He was Boston Back Bay and friendship was not in the books 
with him. Respect is a better word. He didn't bother with 

* His sister, Ellen, served as embassy hostess during her extended annual visits to 
Israel. Barbour kept photographs of Ellen and one other woman on his desk; a personal 
aide recalled Barbour explaining, when queried, that the other woman was someone 
he'd known in Cairo, where he was serving as political officer during World War II. 
"What happened to her?" "I asked her to marry me and she said no," Barbour replied. 
The young aide was astonished: "She said no and he kept her picture there twenty 
years later." 


friends." Barbour's closest associates were not his fellow Amer- 
icans, but senior officials of the Israeli government, including 
Golda Meir, who became prime minister in 1969, and Major 
General Aharon Yariv, director of military intelligence from 
1964 to 1972. 

Of course, no senior Israeli official would talk to an outsider 
about nuclear weapons, and Barbour, in the end, shared that 

Yet it was Barbour's men who reported before the June 1967 
war that Israel had completed its basic weapons design and was 
capable of manufacturing warheads for deployment on mis- 
siles. Israel also may have had a crudely manufactured bomb or 
two ready to go, but — as the embassy could not know — no deci- 
sion had been made by Prime Minister Eshkol to begin mass 

Spying on Dimona was not the responsibility of the Central 
Intelligence Agency, as in most foreign countries, but left to 
the U.S. Army, Air Force, and Navy attaches assigned to the 
embassy; the Agency's espionage functions included the moni- 
toring of Soviet activities and the providing of special cameras, 
film, and free bottles of wine to any officer who wanted to 
picnic on the weekend with his family in the Negev. The 1963 
restrictions on the CIA's operations inside Israel, American of- 
ficials acknowledged, were a sop aimed at avoiding any undue 
embarrassment for the Israeli government, whose extensive 
penetration of the United States government needed to be 
curbed. "We were helpful to the Israelis" in terms of supplying 
essential intelligence, explains a senior American diplomat, 
"but we knew that if we weren't — they'd get it anyway." The 
few espionage attempts organized by the CIA before 1963 had 
gone nowhere, in part because of the nature of Israel's close- 
knit society but also because of Israel's ability to monitor the 
activities of the Americans assigned to Israel. All of the U.S. 
embassy contacts with Israeli citizens and government officials 
were — and continue to be — funneled through a special liaison 
office of the Israeli foreign ministry. It was understood that 
American intelligence and military officials who tried to evade 
the liaison system would be carefully watched. Given the diffi- 


culty of operating clandestinely inside Israel, the function of 
the CIA station chief was reduced to writing political assess- 
ments and staying in close touch with his counterparts in Mos- 
sad and in military intelligence, Aman. Israel, with its steady 
stream of Soviet and Eastern European Jewish refugees, re- 
mained the most important country for collecting intelligence 
on the Soviet Union, but those operations were left to James 
Angleton and his men in Washington. It was sometimes hard 
for a newcomer, like John McCone, to keep things straight. 

McCone was still eager to have his agency prove what he knew 
to be true: that a chemical reprocessing plant did exist under- 
ground at Dimona. Peter C. Jessup, the CIA station chief in the 
early 1960s, recalled being peremptorily ordered to fly to Rome 
early in McCone's tenure, where the director — then on a grand 
tour of CIA facilities in Europe — was scheduled to see the 
pope. The trip, in the days before jet travel, had taken many 
hours, but McCone had only a moment to spare. u He was in a 
great hurry," Jessup recalled, "and told me that President Ken- 
nedy thinks the most serious problem facing us is the prolifera- 
tion of nuclear weapons." McCone wanted the questions about 
Israel put to rest, and urged the station chief to put "his staff" 
to work. At the time, the bemused Jessup added, his "staff" at 
the CIA station consisted of two aides. 

Despite the difficulties, the men in the U.S. embassy — want- 
ing, like most people, to do their job as well as possible — kept 
on trying to find out what they could about Dimona. Getting 
close was fun and a little dangerous — one American officer was 
chastised by Barbour after being caught by the Israelis with a 
butterfly net outside Dimona's barbed-wire fence — but occa- 
sionally added something useful to the intelligence. Colonel 
Carmelo V. Alba was the U.S. Army's military attache to Israel 
in the mid-1960s and, like the other attaches from Western em- 
bassies, spent many weekends cruising in the Negev with his 
long-range telescopic camera. "All I was doing was taking pic- 
tures," Alba recalled. He did so at least once a month, shipping 
the film off to Washington, with no reaction — until one of his 
photographs showed "evidence of activity at Dimona. Smoke 


was coming out of the dome," Alba added. "Finally, the CIA 
got excited." 

Dimona had gone critical, and the embassy continued its 
watch. John Hadden, who began his tour as CIA station chief 
in 1963, sent Alba one weekend to Beersheba to do a census of 
French names on the mailboxes of the city's apartment com- 
plexes.* A constant goal was to try to determine who was doing 
what at Dimona. Barbour did not interfere with the hunt; Wil- 
liam Dale, as the second-highest-ranking American diplomat, 
was given wide latitude in the day-to-day management of the 
embassy, and he encouraged his staff to find out what it could. 
The embassy's scientific attache was a physicist named Robert 
T. Webber, who shared Dale's interest in Dimona. Webber, 
who had earned a doctorate in physics at Yale University, 
worked closely with John Hadden — in clear violation of a State 
Department decree forbidding scientific attaches to engage in 
intelligence work.** Webber also relied on the intelligence gath- 
ered by Mel Alba and encouraged the Army colonel to collabo- 
rate with his British and Canadian counterparts in collecting 

It was a hunt, and the men in the embassy got a break some- 
time in 1966 from an unlikely source — an American Jew living 
in Israel. Dale and the rest of the embassy staff stayed on good 
terms — as American diplomats do all over the world — with the 
many American citizens who chose to live abroad. Americans 
in Israel were routinely invited to embassy parties and picnics, 

* Alba got Hadden in trouble with the Israeli foreign office by inadvertently putting 
Hadden's American license plates on a jeep before taking one of his weekend jaunts to 
the Negev. All diplomatic cars in Israel were required to have special license plates, 
and the embassy mechanics routinely removed the American license plates from the 
private cars of newly arrived diplomatic personnel and placed them on the walls for 
decoration. Alba had asked the embassy car pool for a black jeep. It arrived with no 
plates, and the colonel, in a hurry, ordered the mechanic to grab a set at random from 
the walls and throw them on. The plates turned out to be Hadden's. The jeep, of 
course, was monitored by the Israelis, leading to a stiff protest: why was the CIA 
station chief sneaking around in the Negev? 

** "We were very strict," recalled Herman Pollack, then the director of the State 
Department Bureau of International Scientific and Technological Affairs. "No intelli- 
gence work by science attaches. He was supposed to keep his hands very clean." Had- 
den, who retired from the Agency a few years after returning from Israel, 
acknowledged with a laugh that he "never paid any attention to organizational charts 
and titles. Life seemed to be better run if people worked together to accomplish joint 
goals that made sense." 


as well as to screenings of American movies. Dale and his wife 
had become especially friendly with Dr. Max Ben, a Princeton- 
trained pharmacologist who was helping the Israelis set up a 
pharmacology institute under United Nations auspices. "One 
morning," Dale recalled, "Max came into the embassy and said, 
'I have a story to tell you. I've been down to Dimona and I was 
shown the nuclear facilities. I'm convinced that Israel is mak- 
ing nuclear warheads.' " Ben, contacted later, vividly recalled 
his trip to Dimona. He had become a close friend and confidant 
of Ernst Bergmann's while in Israel, and it was that friendship, 
he claimed, that led to the invitation to take a firsthand look at 
the reactor. Though he had studied physics at Princeton, Ben 
found the visit to be "exciting" but confusing: "A lot of it I 
didn't understand." What troubled him, however, was not any 
concern about proliferation, but his belief that the United 
States was not helping Israel in its serious pursuit of the bomb: 
"I thought we ought to do something about it — to give them an 
assist." He talked to Dale and then agreed to discuss what he 
knew on a more sophisticated level with Bob Webber. Dale 
arranged the meeting. Ben explained years later that his pur- 
pose in taking up the issue with Dale and Webber had not been 
to inform on Israel's nuclear progress, as Dale obviously as- 
sumed, but to try to pass word of the accomplishments at 
Dimona to Washington. "My goal," he recalled, "was to see 
how the U.S. could help Israel. I tried to walk a line." 

Dale felt he had enough to report. He brought Webber and 
others into the embassy's most secure room — a lead-sealed facil- 
ity known as the "bubble" — and the group drafted a highly 
classified dispatch to Washington summarizing their intelli- 
gence. Its essential message, Dale recalled, was: "Israel is get- 
ting ready to start putting warheads into missiles so they can 
be quickly assembled into weapons for delivery by plane." The 
paper had to be approved by the ambassador, who was ap- 
proached with trepidation. "Barbour harrumphed," Dale re- 
called, "and said, 'Well, I suppose it's time. Go ahead, they 
deserve it. Let it go.' " Dale forwarded it with a sense of accom- 
plishment. It was, Dale thought, the embassy's most definitive 
report by far on Dimona. 

"So what happened?" asked Dale. "Not a damn thing. No- 


body responded." Webber eventually was replaced as science 
attache by someone much less interested in Dimona, and Colo- 
nel Alba was reassigned as an aide to the Joint Chiefs of Staff. 
Adding to the frustration, Dale said, was the fact that more 
revealing information about Israeli intentions was provided 
early the next year by another American Jew. The embassy 
was entertaining a group of American government officials 
who were en route from India after attending a regional meet- 
ing of American economic and commercial attaches. There was 
a party set up in Tel Aviv with Israeli trade officials. On the 
next day, Eugene M. Braderman, then a deputy assistant secre- 
tary of state for commercial affairs, approached Dale, "looking 
ashen. He said, 'One of the Israelis at the party told me that my 
primary duty, as an American Jew, was to help the United 
States government accept Israeli nuclear weapons.' Braderman 
was very agitated," Dale added. "He said to me: Tm an Ameri- 
can first, not a Jew first.' He told me to do whatever was right 
with the information."* By that point, Dale understood that 
Braderman's story had nowhere to go. "I didn't do anything 
with it," he said. "I knew it'd not do any good." 

There were other issues, of course, for the embassy. Israel de- 
cided in early June 1967 to preempt the increasing Arab 
buildup in the Sinai and go to war. A year of steady tension 
had culminated two weeks before in an Egyptian blockade of 
the Israeli port city of Elat. An increasingly confident Nasser 
had sent his troops to occupy Sharm el Sheikh on the southern 
tip of the Sinai Peninsula, blocking the access of Israeli ship- 
ping to the Strait of Tiran, which leads from the Red Sea to the 
Gulf of Aqaba and then to Elat. 

Israel considered the Egyptian move to be an act of war, but 
— under pressure from the Johnson administration not to at- 
tack — the Eshkol government wavered. The prime minister, 
confronted by a public that wanted to initiate war with the 
Arabs, was viciously criticized for his indecisiveness and lack 
of military experience. To maintain political control — intelli- 

* Braderman, now retired and living in Washington, recalled the 1967 visit to Israel 
and said it was "possible that I'd said something like that" to Bill Dale. He added that 
Dale's recollection certainly reflected his general view of the issue of Jewish loyalty. 


gence reports reached the White House of military coup plot- 
ting — Eshkol was forced in late May to turn to his political 
enemies, including Moshe Dayan and Menachem Begin, and 
form a government of national unity. For Begin, now a minis- 
ter without portfolio, the appointment meant that he was serv- 
ing in the Israeli government for the first time in his political 
career. Dayan's nomination as defense minister had to be much 
more difficult for Eshkol; it amounted, in essence, to an ac- 
knowledgment that he was unable to lead the nation in war- 
time. Dayan, with his romantic image, was as admired among 
the population as the hesitating Eshkol was not. Dayan came 
to the defense portfolio with enormous political strength, rais- 
ing the possibility that the hard-line pro-nuclear Rafi Party of 
David Ben-Gurion would once again be dominant in Israeli 
military affairs. 

The army, led by Chief of Staff Yitzhak Rabin, was ready. 
Israel struck first on June 5 and achieved its stunning victory in 
six days, humiliating the Soviet-supplied Arabs and seizing 
Egypt's Sinai Peninsula, the Gaza Strip, Jordan's West Bank, 
and Syria's Golan Heights, and, most stirring of all, fulfilling a 
two-thousand-year-old dream by bringing the Old City of Jeru- 
salem under Jewish control. But Israel suddenly found itself in 
control of one million more Palestinians. 

Wally Barbour spent much of the war in the Israeli war room, 
and he shared the jubilation throughout the nation — and in 
much of America — over the stunning Israeli victory. There 
was no pretense of objectivity in his reporting to Washington; 
his views and those of the Israeli leadership were identical. For 
example, Barbour urged that Washington downplay the Israeli 
Air Force's rocket and strafing attack on the USS Liberty, a 
naval intelligence ship, on the third day of the war. The Liberty, 
flying the American flag, had been monitoring Middle East 
communications traffic in international waters off the coast of 
Israel and had been identified as an American ship before the 
attack, which resulted in a death toll of thirty-four with 171 men 
wounded. The incident triggered resentment throughout the 
United States government. Barbour, however, was anything 
but angered. A declassified cable on file in the LBJ Library 


shows that hours after the incident he reported that Israel did 
not intend to admit to the incident and added: "Urge strongly 
that we too avoid publicity. [Liberty's] proximity to scene could 
feed Arab suspicions of U.S.-Israel collusion. . . . Israelis ob- 
viously shocked by error and tender sincere apologies."* 

At war's end, Bill Dale was summoned by Barbour and told 
of a change in policy regarding the collection of intelligence 
about Dimona. Dale was to inform the embassy's military at- 
taches, Barbour said, that they were no longer to report on 
Dimona and no longer to undercut the Israelis by conducting 
operations with their British or Canadian counterparts. "Israel 
is going to be our main ally," Barbour told Dale, "and we can't 
dilute it by working with others." There was a second message, 
Dale recalled: "Barbour said, 'Arab oil is not as important as 
Israel is to us. Therefore, I'm going to side with Israel in all of 
my reporting.' And maybe he was right," added Dale. "From 
that time on, it was a different Wally Barbour."** 

Dale objected to the policy change, "and our relationship 
soured." Barbour subsequently attempted to amend a favorable 
fitness report he had turned in on Dale's behalf; Dale remains 
convinced that his disagreement over Dimona set back his ca- 
reer (he was named ambassador to the Central African Repub- 
lic in 1973 an d retired from the Foreign Service in 1975). Dale 
did, however, file one more embassy intelligence report on 
Dimona. In the fall of 1967, Henry A. Kissinger, then a Har- 
vard University professor and a consultant on Vietnam to the 
Johnson administration, showed up in Tel Aviv to teach for a 
week at the Israeli Defense College. At the end of the course, 

* The Johnson Library documents also show that Clark Clifford, a key presidential 
adviser and later secretary of defense, complained about the government's initially 
tepid response at a National Security Council meeting the next day: "My concern is 
that we're not tough enough. Handle as if Arabs or USSR had done it." It was "incon- 
ceivable," Clifford added, according to the NSC notes, that Israel destroyed the Liberty 
by error, as it claimed. 

** It was a different CIA, too. A former senior intelligence officer recalled that "a 
big change took place" inside the Agency after the Six-Day War. "All of a sudden a lot 
of people were saying the Israelis were wonderful," the former official added. "Israeli 
intelligence became untouchable, and the professional suspicion you should have about 
another intelligence service — even a friendly one — disappeared." This became espe- 
cially true in the Nixon administration; Nixon and Henry A. Kissinger, his national 
security adviser, became renowned inside the CIA for preferring Mossad's intelligence 
assessments on the Middle East to those supplied by the Agency. 


Kissinger went to Dale's office in the embassy and announced 
that he needed to send an urgent, top-secret message to the 
White House. "He wrote it in longhand," Dale recalled, "and 
gave it to me to send." It was a warning about Dimona, and 
Dale vividly recalled its conclusion: "As a result of my course 
here, I am convinced Israel is making nuclear warheads." Dale 
also vividly recalled a Kissinger warning to him: " Til have 
your ass if this gets out.' Those were my first words from Kis- 

After leaving Israel, Dale gave a series of perfunctory end-of- 
the-tour debriefings in Washington to W. Walt Rostow, John- 
son's national security adviser, and other senior government 
officials; not surprisingly, he said, "Nobody asked me about the 
Israeli bomb." In his next post, with the State Department's 
Policy Planning Council, he again tried to raise questions about 
Dimona, with similar results. One of his early assignments on 
the council, the State Department's in-house think tank, was to 
do a paper on nonproliferation. He wanted to include a chapter 
on Dimona, but was refused permission to discuss that issue 
with members of Congress or members of the Atomic Energy 
Commission. When he protested, said Dale, a senior State De- 
partment official, declaring that the Israeli bomb "was the most 
sensitive foreign policy issue in the United States," threatened 
to discuss his conduct with the secretary of state. His final pa- 
per, Dale said, did not mention Dimona. 

With Barbour staying on and on, the Israeli bomb disappeared 
after 1967 as a significant issue in the American embassy. 
Dimona became a nonplace and the Israeli bomb a nonbomb. 
Sometime that year the Israelis invited Arnold Kramish, an 
American expert on nuclear fuel cycles, to visit the reactor. "I 
made a mistake," recalled Kramish, who was then visiting 
Israel as a fellow at London's International Institute of Strate- 
gic Studies. "I paid a courtesy call on Barbour. He said I 
couldn't go — it would imply U.S. recognition of Dimona." 
Kramish had read about the American inspections in the New 
York Times and raised the obvious argument: "I'm not even an 
official visitor." The ambassador didn't budge, and Kramish 
decided not to challenge his dubious theory: "I didn't go." 


Joseph O. Zurhellen, Jr., Bill Dale's replacement as deputy 
chief of mission, followed the ambassador's cue and was also 
much less interested in the subject. "Barbour was not well 
versed in anything technical — words such as 'reprocessing 
plant,' et cetera," Zurhellen explained. u Of course, he knew 
something screwy had gone on in Dimona. The French had 
pulled wool over our eyes, and so had the Israelis." But, 
Zurhellen added, the embassy's view was that much of the in- 
ternational concern about Dimona had been deliberately fos- 
tered by Israel. U A strong element of their policy is to convince 
others they have the bomb. It's disinformation." Anyway, he 
added, "the nuclear issue was not on our mind. We had a war of 
attrition." Zurhellen was referring to the steadily escalating air 
and artillery battles in the late 1960s and early 1970s between 
Israel and Egypt, whose army and air force had been dramati- 
cally reinforced by the Soviet Union after the Six-Day War. 

After the inauguration of President Richard M. Nixon in 
January 1969, Barbour was even less than uninterested in 
Dimona — he exorcised the issue. A senior American intelli- 
gence officer recalled summoning a group of staff aides to pro- 
vide Barbour, then in Washington, with a special briefing on 
the Israeli nuclear weapons program. "Barbour listened to it 
all," said the intelligence official, "and then said, 'Gentlemen, I 
don't believe a word of it.' " The official was astonished: he had 
given the same briefing in Israel to Barbour without challenge 
a few months before. He privately took Barbour aside. "Mr. 
Ambassador," he recalled saying, "you know it's true." Bar- 
bour replied: "If I acknowledge this, then I have to go to the 
President. And if he admitted it, he'd have to do something 
about it. The President didn't send me there to give him prob- 
lems. He does not want to be told any bad news." 

Barbour had many good reasons for not wanting to tell Presi- 
dent Nixon bad news. His emphysema was getting worse. He 
was increasingly phobic about death, Zurhellen said, and kept 
an oxygen tent near his bed. The ambassador also continued 
his easygoing work habits; Zurhellen recalled only two occa- 
sions in their five years together when Barbour stayed at the 
embassy after his usual noon departure time. 

The overweight ambassador had a huge scare early in the 


Nixon presidency upon being informed that he had been se- 
lected to serve in the Foreign Service's most prestigious ambas- 
sadorial post — in Moscow. The appointment, as were all such 
assignments, was contingent upon medical approval, but, said 
Zurhellen, Barbour hadn't had a State Department physical in 
years, and knew he'd never pass one. "We'd finessed it by hav- 
ing a local Israeli physician write a note every two years say- 
ing, 'You're capable of carrying out your mission.' I drafted the 
answer, thanking State for its confidence, but saying that 'in 
seven years here I have carved out a unique situation.' " Bar- 
bour was allowed to stay on the job. 

In 1970, Barbour made one of his rare public appearances, 
sharing a podium with Prime Minister Golda Meir at the open- 
ing of an American school in Tel Aviv. The ambassador con- 
gratulated Meir for attending and said, "I wish I knew how to 
influence the premier to do what I ask her to do." She replied: 
"I will now reveal the secret to you — you must only ask me to 
do what I want to do." 

When it came to Dimona, Barbour did what Israel wanted — 
without asking. His support for Israel was profound and heart- 
felt; nonetheless, many of his former colleagues in the Foreign 
Service were confounded and distressed when on April 3, 1974, 
a year after retirement, he agreed to become a board member of 
the American branch of Bank Leumi, the Israeli state bank. 
There was nothing illegal in doing so, but many State Depart- 
ment officials consider such appointments to pose an obvious 
conflict of interest. Barbour, characteristically, couldn't have 
cared less about what his peers thought, and he remained on 
the board until his death. 


An Israeli Decision 

In early December 1967, Yigal Allon, the 1948 war hero 
and advocate of West Bank resettlement, was given a private 
look at Israel's nuclear future. It moved him to tears. He and a 
group of aides had been invited to inspect the early work on 
Israel's first nuclear missile field, under construction at an ob- 
scure site known on the map as Hirbat Zachariah, in the foot- 
hills of the Judean Mountains west of Jerusalem. The expertly 
concealed shelters, not identified for years by the American in- 
telligence community, were to be burrowed into the ground at 
the end of an unmarked road lined with closed-circuit cameras. 

The shelters represented the best of Israeli technology and 
ingenuity. They were being built by Tahal, the government- 
owned water planning corporation, which was then negotiat- 
ing with the shah of Iran to build a forty-two-inch oil pipeline 
to relay Iranian crude to the Israeli port cities of Elat and 
Ashdod. The smooth barrels through which the missiles would 
be launched had been imported into the country marked as 
lengths of pipeline.* Israel was many years away from anything 
amounting to a nuclear missile capability — the first field test of 
the Jericho I had been held, with mixed results, only a few 
months before. The missile, jointly being developed with 
France's Dassault Company, had guidance problems: it wasn't 
yet capable of going where it was aimed. 

Nonetheless, those first shelters represented, as Allon clearly 
understood, a new kind of military security for the nation. " Al- 

* A Tahal representative was appointed in 1966 by Prime Minister Eshkol to the 
expanded and revamped Israeli Atomic Energy Commission, to serve on the new 
power and water subcommittee. Missile tubing also may have been shipped to Israel 
described as water mains. 


Ion got all excited," one Israeli observer recalled. "Here's a 
man who had fought in 1948 with only a British submachine 
gun, and now — twenty years later — here is Israel building nu- 
clear missiles. We're a people," added the observer, "who have 
come back from the dead. In one generation we have become 
the warriors — the Sparta of our time." 

Allon couldn't resist boasting about what he had seen. A few 
days later, he stunned his cabinet colleagues by warning Egypt 
in a public speech at Haifa that Israel would reply in kind to 
any Egyptian attack on a population center using advanced 
weapons. "Every weapon Egypt can produce or purchase with 
the aid of a great power," he said, "we can match, sometimes 
with and sometimes without the aid of a big power." As a 
member of the prime minister's select committee on national 
security issues, Allon had great credibility. But no Israeli offi- 
cial had ever publicly acknowledged the existence of a nuclear 
missile system, and Allon's cryptic assertions were privately 
attacked by other government officials as a breach of security 
and publicly criticized in the press for creating a panic. 

Israel's missile program, code-named Project 700, had been en- 
visioned years earlier by Ernst David Bergmann as the final, 
costly step toward the Samson Option. One former Israeli gov- 
ernment official recalled seeing figures indicating that the over- 
all long-range price of Project 700, if fully authorized by the 
prime minister's national security committee, would be $850 
million — more than was budgeted for all Israeli defense expen- 
ditures in 1967. The staggering price of the missiles was more 
than matched by other elements of the nuclear system, and the 
overall cost of the nuclear program continued to be the major 
barrier to the bomb and the biggest hurdle for the official who 
emerged in the late 1960s with responsibility for Israel's nuclear 
future, Defense Minister Moshe Dayan. 

Allon's visit to Zachariah had had a strategic purpose: he was 
being proselytized by Dayan, who, with his black eye patch 
and flair for the dramatic, had emerged from the Six-Day War 
as an international hero. The war's aftermath also gave Dayan 
and his pro-nuclear colleagues a renewed opportunity to pub- 
licly condemn the major target of their prospective bombs — the 


Soviet Union. Dayan was among the first in the Eshkol cabinet 
to predict that the Soviets, searching for any foothold they 
could get in their ideological struggle with the United States, 
would fill the power vacuum in the Middle East and become 
the major threat to Israel. In early July, Dayan warned in an 
interview with the Frankfurter Allgemeine newspaper of West 
Germany that if the Soviets chose to unite with the Arabs 
against Israel, he would not "hesitate an instant to advise his 
government to fight and defeat the Russians just like the Arabs. 
. . . Israel need be intimidated by no one." 

Dayan was articulating the sense of isolation that had 
worked its way into the top levels of the Israeli leadership, in a 
way not felt since the 1956 Suez Crisis. Charles de Gaulle had 
responded to the war by accusing Israel of being the aggressor 
and canceling all of France's arms sales to Israel, abrogating 
twelve years of close French support for Israel. De Gaulle also 
delayed the pending shipment of fifty previously purchased 
Mirage III jet fighters. He even claimed to newsmen that he 
had not known of Dassault's contract with Israel until the first 
field test in 1967 of the Jericho I (although the French firm 
would continue to work with Israelis on the missile program 
for another year). 

The Soviets and their satellites in the Eastern bloc, with the 
exception of Romania, had gone further: all diplomatic rela- 
tions with Israel were severed. The Soviets also immediately 
began rearming their Arab clients. President Nikolai V. Pod- 
gorny made a triumphant state visit to Cairo in late June and 
was greeted by hundreds of thousands of cheering Egyptians. 
Planeloads of Soviet arms began arriving shortly thereafter, in- 
itiating an extensive and rapid buildup of the depleted Egyp- 
tian war stores, all of which would be renewed within a year. 
Moscow eventually sent Soviet advisers and high-performance 
MiG fighters to Egypt; in return, the Russians were granted 
preferential treatment at four Mediterranean harbors as well as 
virtual control of seven Egyptian air bases. The Soviets were 
similarly generous in their support for Syria and Iraq, the 
other losers (along with Jordan) in the Six-Day War. 

Israeli intelligence intercepted high-level communications 
between Cairo, Damascus, and Moscow that were replete with 


boastful talk about the next war in the Middle East, and little 
discussion of the last one. The Soviet fleet was suddenly being 
deployed in greater force in the Mediterranean, with two or 
three ships — obviously attempting to intercept Israeli commu- 
nications-parked off the Israeli coast. There was no response 
to these provocations, as seen by the Israelis, from the world's 
other great superpower, the United States. 

In late August 1967, the Arab nations, buoyed by the Soviet 
support and guided by Soviet advice, gathered for the first post- 
war summit at Khartoum and agreed on what became known 
as the "three no's" — no peace, no negotiations, and no recogni- 

Dayan's drive for the bomb was heightened by his conviction 
that Israel could not depend on America to deter a Soviet at- 
tack. In 1966, he had spent time as a journalist in South Viet- 
nam and come away "very much worried," as he later told 
NSC adviser Walt Rostow, about "the steadiness of the United 
States in honoring its commitments." In a crisis, Israel either 
would or would not — as in Suez — be supported by Washington, 
depending on the White House's assessment of its international 
and regional interests. Dayan believed Moscow similarly 
would be willing to come to the aid of the Arabs not because of 
a deep concern for the Middle East, but to protect its prestige 
and international interests. Whatever their motives, Dayan was 
convinced that the superpowers would dictate events in the 
Middle East unless Israel took steps to arm itself fully. Israel's 
survival, in Dayan's view, was now dependent on its ability to 
mass-produce nuclear weapons and target them at the Soviet 
Union — just as the French goal was to target its force defrappe at 

Dayan's mission in late 1967 and early 1968 was to convince 
his fellow cabinet members that if the Soviets could be per- 
suaded that the Israeli threat was credible, they might decide 
that there was no Middle East war worth fighting. A credible 
Israeli bomb also would deter the Soviets from taking any steps 
in the Middle East that would jeopardize Israel's survival — 
such as agreeing to supply an Arab nation with a nuclear 
weapon. In Dayan's scenario, Israeli intelligence agents would 


secretly inform their Soviet counterparts as soon as Dimona's 
assembly line went into full production. And when Israel de- 
veloped its first bomb in a suitcase, Moscow also would be told 
— and reminded that there was no way to stop Mossad from 
smuggling a nuclear weapon across the border by automobile 
or into a Soviet port by boat. As for the rest of the world, 
including the United States, there would still be studied ambi- 
guity on the question of whether Israel had the bomb. The 
argument for an Israeli "bomb in the basement" was born. 

Dayan got a boost in his lobbying sometime in the last few 
months of 1967 when the Israelis learned from American intelli- 
gence that the Soviet Union had added four major Israeli cities 
— Tel Aviv, Haifa, Beersheba, and Ashdod — to its nuclear 
targeting list. This most sensitive information was apparently 
obtained unofficially, according to a former member of Prime 
Minister Eshkol's staff: "We got it in a nonkosher way," the 
Israeli explained, without amplification.* 

A second boost was supplied by Henry Kissinger, then New 
York Governor Nelson A. Rockefeller's foreign policy adviser 
in the campaign for the Republican nomination. Kissinger met 
privately in February 1968 with a group of Israeli scholars at 
the Jerusalem home of Major General Elad Peled, director of 
Israel's Defense College, where Kissinger had taught the year 
before. His message, according to Shlomo Aronson, an aca- 
demic who has written on Israeli nuclear policy, was electrify- 
ing: the United States would not "lift a finger for Israel" if the 
Soviets chose directly to intervene by, "say, a Soviet missile 
attack against the Israeli Air Force bases in Sinai." Aronson, 
who attended the meeting, quoted Kissinger as making three 
declarations: "The main aim of any American President is to 
prevent World War III. Second, that no American President 
would risk World War III because of territories occupied by 
Israel. Three, the Russians know this." 

By early 1968, it was obvious that the overwhelming victory 

* American intelligence officials subsequently told me that the United States did not 
obtain a physical copy of the Soviet nuclear targeting list until the early 1970s. Some 
human intelligence about Soviet targets did exist, however, and it was that informa- 
tion, known only to a few in the CIA and elsewhere, that conceivably could have been 
passed along to the Israelis. 


in the Six-Day War had solved none of Israel's basic political 
and military problems in the Middle East. Yitzhak Rabin, the 
army chief of staff, flew to Washington in mid-December 1967 
and said as much in a meeting with General Earle G. Wheeler, 
chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. "Rabin opened the con- 
versation by stating that Israel finds itself in the peculiar posi- 
tion of having won the war, but not the peace," Wheeler noted 
in a memorandum for the record, later declassified and put on 
file in the LBJ Library. "Israel was in a less favorable position 
now than prior to 5 June [when the war began]. The Soviets do 
not want a peaceful settlement," Rabin told Wheeler. u [T]heir 
objective is to maintain a climate of tension, whereby they can 
continue to foster an increasing Arab dependence on Soviet 
power and influence . . . with a view toward maintaining So- 
viet access to port and air terminal facilities and, ultimately, 
control of Arab oil." 

America's Jewish community responded to the dramatic June 
victory with showers of money and increased visits; tourism 
was booming in late 1967, and so was the Israeli economy. Is- 
rael's success, as Ambassador Walworth Barbour told his 
doubting staff in the American embassy in Tel Aviv, had ce- 
mented its relationship to Washington. Yet for Dayan and 
many of his supporters at Dimona and elsewhere, America had 
proved its basic unreliability as an ally a month before the Six- 
Day War when it failed to respond to Nasser's closing of the 
Strait of Tiran and blockade of Elat. Israeli foreign ministry 
documents showed that Dwight Eisenhower had promised in 
writing after the Suez debacle in 1956 that the United States 
would use force, if necessary, to keep the strait open. Israel 
called on Johnson to keep that commitment after Nasser's 
blockade and felt betrayed upon learning that the State Depart- 
ment considered Eisenhower's commitment to have expired 
when Eisenhower left office in early 1961. Only a treaty ratified 
by the U.S. Senate was binding on subsequent administrations, 
the Israelis were told. Washington, without knowing it, was 
playing into the hands of Moshe Dayan and his nuclear ambi- 


But Israel was not yet a full nuclear power: no senior official 
had authorized the reactor and reprocessing plant to begin sys- 
tematically turning out plutonium. Financial fears continued 
to haunt the leadership. One Israeli official recalled seeing esti- 
mates indicating that by the early 1970s a full-scale nuclear 
weapons program, including warheads and missiles, would be 
chewing up more than 10 percent of Israel's overall budget — 
nearly $1 billion. Pinhas Sapir, renowned among Israel's leader- 
ship as the economic boss of the newly formed Labor Party,* 
was a strong believer in government loans and investments to 
promote economic development; dollars for Dimona never 
made much sense to him. In his view, an Israeli bomb would 
only lead to conflicts with the United States and a lessened flow 
of American contributions. 

Dayan, one Israeli official recalled, made a critical decision 
early in 1968. He telephoned Sapir and asked him to spend a 
day with him, just as he had done with Allon. The two men 
went to Dimona. u He showed him the whole thing, from A to 
Z," the Israeli said. "Nobody had seen the whole [reprocessing] 
facility. Sapir was like a cat with sour cream. He came back and 
said to Allon, who was still resisting a full nuclear commit- 
ment: 'Have you seen it all? I've seen it and you don't know 
shit.** There will be no more Auschwitzes.' " 

Sometime early in 1968, Dimona finally was ordered into full- 
scale production and began turning out four or five warheads a 
year — there were more than twenty-five bombs in the arsenal 
by the Yom Kippur War in September 1973. There is no evi- 
dence that the Israeli cabinet ever made a formal decision about 
Dimona. Nonetheless, production of the first assembly line 
bomb, whether officially sanctioned or not, was quickly known 
to the top layer of national security officials and widely ap- 
plauded. An Israeli recalled that champagne was broken out at 

* In 1965, Mapai and Achdut Avodah had agreed to join forces to run as a bloc for 
seats in the Knesset. After the Six-Day War, the two parties merged with Rafi to create 
the Labor Party. The next year, Mapam decided to join forces with the unified Labor 
Party and stand for election on the same ticket, but did not formally join the party. 

** It should be noted that there is no such expression in Hebrew as "You don't 
know shit." The Israeli who used that phrase in an interview was fluent in idiomatic 
English and, in his translation, was trying to describe the essence and import of Sapir's 
comment to Allon. 


Dimona, and in some government offices in Tel Aviv and Jeru- 
salem, at word that the first bomb had been assembled. It was 
widely believed, the Israeli added, that the first warhead had 
the following phrase welded, in Hebrew and English, onto its 
exterior: never again. 

One former Israeli government official explained the bureau- 
cratic procedure behind the decision to open Dimona's assem- 
bly line by saying, with a shrug and a smile, that Moshe Dayan 
had unilaterally decided that he had received the support of the 
key money men and had all the authority he needed — as de- 
fense minister — to turn Israel into a nuclear power. A similar 
suggestion was made at the time to Dr. Max Ben, Ernst 
Bergmann's American friend, by Amos Deshalit. "We were 
talking about Dayan," recalled Ben, "and Amos said, 'He's the 
guy who's acting on his own.' "* 

With the decision finally taken, the bureaucracy closed 
ranks, as Israelis always do in matters of state security. The 
first necessity was the acquisition of uranium ore — lots of it. 
Mossad knew that there were hundreds of tons of ore sitting in 
a warehouse near Antwerp, Belgium, available for purchase in 
Europe, but that option theoretically did not exist: such sales 
in Europe were controlled by Euratom, the Common Market 
nuclear agency, and it was inconceivable that approval would 
be forthcoming for a large sale to Israel. Dimona was, after all, 
under no international supervision. Even if such a sale could be 
arranged, no one in Israel was willing to let the world know 
that Dimona, ostensibly a twenty-four-megawatt reactor capa- 
ble of consuming no more than twenty-four tons of ore in a 
year, was purchasing an eight-year supply of uranium. Mos- 
sad's solution was to approach one of its agents in West Ger- 

* In April 1976, Time magazine reported that shortly after the Six-Day War, Dayan 
"had secretly ordered the start of construction" on a reprocessing plant. Prime Minis- 
ter Eshkol then decided, said the magazine, that "they could only rubber-stamp a 
project already under way." The article, despite its confusion about the reprocessing 
plant, which was already finished by 1967, provided the world with its first hard infor- 
mation about the Israeli weapons program. The story carried no byline, apparently 
because it was reported by David Halevy, who, as an Israeli citizen, was subject to 
government censorship. Halevy, a former intelligence and army officer, was known for 
good contacts inside the Israeli government and intelligence community; it was widely 
believed inside the Israeli government, which officially denied the story, that his basic 
source was Moshe Dayan. 


many in March 1968 and ask him to make the purchase of the 
uranium — for $4 million — allegedly on behalf of an Italian 
chemical company in Milan. The sale was approved by 
Euratom in October, and the uranium was shipped out of Ant- 
werp aboard a vessel renamed the Scheersberg A. The Scheersberg 
A had been purchased, with Mossad funds, by another Israeli 
agent-in-place in Turkey. Once at sea, according to published 
accounts that were confirmed by Israeli officials, the uranium 
ore was transferred to an Israeli freighter guarded by gunboats 
and taken to Israel. The disappearance of the huge shipment of 
uranium ore was known, of course, within months to Euratom; 
it wasn't much longer before U.S. and European intelligence 
agencies were reporting internally that the Israelis were in- 
volved. It took nine years, nonetheless, before word of the ura- 
nium hijacking reached the press, and the affair eventually 
became the subject of a 1978 book, The Plumbat Affair. Israel's 
response to the book and to the earlier newspaper accounts was 
to continue to deny that it had a nuclear capability. No one, 
except for a few public-interest advocates and a few reporters, 
seemed to care. 


A Presidential Gift 

After the Six-Day War, and despite Israeli complaints 
about the increased Soviet threat in the Middle East, the John- 
son administration turned out once again to be a fitful ally in 
Israel's eyes, as the President — anxious to avoid a break with 
the Arab world — joined de Gaulle and embargoed all arms de- 
liveries to Israel for 135 days. America did so, bitter Israelis 
noted, while the Soviets continued to resupply their allies. 
Johnson also publicly eschewed any firm commitment to de- 
fend Israel in a crisis. He was asked by CBS newsman Dan 
Rather at an end-of-the-year press conference whether the 
United States had "the same kind of unwavering commitment 
to defend Israel against invasion as we have in South Viet- 
nam." His answer satisfied few Israelis: "We have made clear 
our very definite interest in Israel, and our desire to preserve 
peace in that area of the world by many means. But we do not 
have a mutual security treaty with them, as we do in Southeast 

Nonetheless, Prime Minister Eshkol was eager to make a sec- 
ond state visit to Washington in January 1968 to plead for the 
sale of F-4 jet fighters to balance the Soviet introduction of 
MiGs into Egypt. The F-4 was the most advanced fighter in the 
American arsenal, and the Pentagon and State Department ar- 
gued that Israel did not need such aircraft to maintain a mili- 
tary advantage against the Egyptians, whose MiG-2is had a 
much more limited range and bombing capacity. Introducing 
the top-of-the-line F-4S into the Middle East would be an un- 
warranted and unnecessary escalation; Israel would remain su- 
perior with the previously supplied A-4 Skyhawk bombers. 

But Johnson, or some of his senior staff, apparently still 


hadn't given up on persuading Israel to accept the Nonprolifer- 
ation Treaty (NPT) and were willing to trade fifty F-4S for it. 
In a pre-summit memorandum for Johnson on January 5, 1968, 
Walt Rostow discussed two lists— "What We Want" and "What 
We'll Give." The want list included the Rostow reminder "We 
think we have an acceptable NPT. We believe this will serve 
Israel's long-range security. We expect Israel to sign." The give 
list included twenty-seven more Skyhawks and a promise to 
"cut lead time if Israel needs Phantoms." 

Rostow's suggestion that it would be possible to link the 
Phantom sale to the NPT was farcical, given Israel's commit- 
ment to Dimona and the ample U.S. intelligence — much of it 
supplied by Wally Barbour's embassy in Tel Aviv — about that 
commitment. Many years later, in an interview, Rostow ac- 
knowledged that he had had few doubts about Israel's nuclear 
goals: "If you were to ask me what I thought in the sixties, I 
thought they were moving to put themselves in a position to 
have a bomb. Everybody and his brother knew what Israel was 

There was a similar lack of realism in the White House's 
approach to the broader Middle East picture, as summarized in 
Rostow's January 5 memorandum: "[W]e can't support an 
Israel that sits tight. . . . The Arabs need hope of Israeli con- 
cessions — on refugees, Jerusalem, letting new refugees return 
to the West Bank, avoiding permanent moves in occupied 
lands." The issues would stay the same for at least the next 
twenty-three years. 

Rostow had to know that the Israeli military had gone on a 
virtual rampage at the end of the Six-Day War in the newly 
occupied areas of Jerusalem, the West Bank and Golan Heights, 
ransacking and destroying Arab homes in an obvious attempt 
to drive Palestinians and other Arabs off their land and into 
Jordan and Syria. More than one hundred Arab homes were 
demolished in the Old City of Jersualem on the first night after 
the war by Israeli troops, operating under floodlights with bull- 
dozers. Teddy Kollek, Jerusalem's mayor, explained in a 1978 
memoir why such speed was necessary: "My overpowering 
feeling was: do it now; it may be impossible to do it later, and it 
must be done." Bulldozers and dynamite were used with espe- 


cial ferocity throughout the West Bank; the village of Qalqiliya, 
west of Nablus, had 850 of its 2,000 homes destroyed during 
three days of Israel occupation. Moshe Dayan later accused the 
Israeli soldiers of taking "punitive" action in the village and 
ordered cement and other goods to be provided to the villagers 
for rebuilding. 

There was a brief period after the war in which many senior 
Israelis, among them Dayan and David Ben-Gurion, openly 
questioned the wisdom of holding on to the occupied lands.* 
They saw the war as offering Israel a chance to trade land for 
lasting peace; Jews, Ben-Gurion often said to his followers, 
made lousy rulers. "Sinai? . . . Gaza? The West Bank? Let 
them all go," Ben-Gurion told an American reporter. "Peace is 
more important than real estate. We do not need territories." 
Levi Eshkol expressed his own doubts to the visiting Abe Fein- 
berg a few weeks after the war, saying in Yiddish, "What am I 
going to do with a million Arabs? They fuck like rabbits." 

Competing against those practical concerns were the reli- 
gious and philosophical views of many Revisionist Zionists 
who believed, along with Menachem Begin and his mentor, the 
late Vladimir Jabotinsky, that Israel's expansion into the West 
Bank was not an issue of politics, but a historical necessity; the 
West Bank was the birthplace of the Jewish people, and the 
area, part of Eretz Israel, had not been occupied during the war 

* James Critchfield, a longtime CIA official who was chief of the Near East Division 
in 1967, recalled that Dayan and Zvi Zamir, then head of Mossad, joined forces with 
him and James Angleton at the end of the Six-Day War in a brief and ill-fated attempt 
to stop the abuse in the West Bank and elsewhere. The goal, said Critchfield, was to 
reach a quick accord on trading land for peace before the Israelis began settling the 
occupied territories. Dayan and Zamir were convinced that such a step would be "a 
disastrous development," said Critchfield. "We had to reverse it immediately, or it'd be 
a fait accompli. " The goal was to start negotiations with Jordan's King Hussein, who 
had entered the war reluctantly and late, and was eager to negotiate an end to Israeli 
attacks on his country and his palace. "We started talking and we were making pro- 
gress," said Critchfield. "I'd kept Mac Bundy [who had returned briefly to the White 
House as Johnson's special national security assistant for the Middle East] informed 
and he'd approved it. Twelve days after the end of the war, I thought we ought to 
remind Mac that we were doing it." A White House meeting was arranged with Bundy 
and Nicholas D. Katzenbach, then the under secretary of state. "We were told to knock 
it off," Critchfield said. "They thought it was not well prepared. Angleton argued that 
if we do not act now with Dayan's and Zamir's support, there will be settlements in the 
West Bank. As we walked out, Mac said to me, Td forgotten how passionable Angleton 
could be. We were at Yale together.' " Katzenbach subsequently said he had no recollec- 
tion of the meeting. Critchfield, who retired from the Agency in 1974, wasn't surprised 
at the loss of memory: "They made a dumb act, and wanted to forget it." 


but "liberated." The Revisionists' position emerged as the gov- 
ernment's policy over the years. The Israeli intransigence over 
return of the territories, coupled with the rearmed Arabs' de- 
sire for revenge, doomed United Nations Resolution 242, which 
called for Israeli withdrawal from the occupied territories in 
return for Arab commitments of territorial integrity and peace. 
It had been unanimously approved by the United Nations Se- 
curity Council in late November 1967. 

Things couldn't have gone worse, from the Israeli point of 
view, at the Johnson-Eshkol summit meeting in early 1968 at 
the President's ranch in Texas. Eshkol and his advisers, includ- 
ing Ephraim (EfFy) Evron, the Israeli ambassador to Washing- 
ton, who was a Johnson favorite, had sat through a day of 
briefings at which a series of Senate and Defense Department 
officials argued against selling F-4S to Israel. "Johnson was stif- 
fing them on the Nonproliferation Treaty," recalled Harry C. 
McPherson, one of the President's advisers. "Finally he gets up 
and said, 'Let's all go piss.' So we all go into a huge bathroom 
and piss. As Johnson's leaving he sees EfFy looking hangdog. 
'What's the matter, EfFy?' EfFy said, 'We're not going to get our 
F-4S.' 'Oh goddam, EfFy,' Johnson said, 'you're going to get the 
F-4S. But I'm going to get something out of Eshkol. But don't 
tell him.' " 

McPherson and Evron thought that Johnson's comment 
amounted to a commitment, but what Johnson wanted to get, 
Israel could not give. One of Dayan's followers recalled the 
despair over the seemingly relentless American pressure for 
IAEA inspections: "We realized we were out there alone." 

Dayan's men were too pessimistic. Israel had the best friend it 
could have — the President. Within weeks of the summit meet- 
ing with Eshkol, Johnson was presented with a CIA estimate 
concluding— for the first time — that Israel had manufactured at 
least four nuclear warheads. He ordered CIA Director Richard 
M. Helms to bury the report, and Helms obeyed the order, as 
he always did. 

The CIA estimate was not a result of any intelligence break- 
through, explained Carl Duckett, who, by 1968, had become the 
Agency's assistant director for science and technology, but 


arose out of a dinner he had with Edward Teller, the eminent 
nuclear physicist who had devoted much of his life to weapons 
building. Duckett had briefed Teller in the past and, as he ac- 
knowledged, stood in awe of him. Teller had arranged for the 
private dinner to deliver a pointed message, Duckett recalled: 
"He was convinced that Israel now had several weapons ready 
to go." Teller explained that he had just returned from Israel — 
he had a sister living in Tel Aviv and was a frequent visitor 
there — where he had many contacts in the Israeli scientific and 
defense community. "He'd talked to a lot of his old friends," 
Duckett said, "and he was concerned." Teller was careful to say 
that he had no specific information about Israeli nuclear weap- 
ons. But it was his understanding, Teller told Duckett, that the 
Agency was waiting for an Israeli test before making any final 
assessment about Israeli nuclear capability. If so, the CIA was 
making a mistake. "The Israelis have it and they aren't going to 
test it," Duckett recalled Teller explaining. "They might be 
wrong by a few kilotons [on the yield of an untested bomb], but 
so what?" 

Duckett was as impressed as Teller wanted him to be: "It was 
the most single convincing piece of evidence I got the whole 
time I was in the CIA."* He reported the conversation to 
Helms the next morning: "I can tell you that everybody was 
very concerned." The Office of Science and Technology had 
just distributed a top-secret estimate on nonproliferation, and 
Duckett decided that an update, known inside the intelligence 
community as a "Memo to Holders," would be dispatched. "It 
was very brief," Duckett recalled. "The conclusion was that 
they [the Israelis] had nuclear weapons." 

Another factor in that conclusion was the widespread belief 
inside the Agency that the Israelis were somehow behind the 
reported disappearance of some two hundred pounds of weap- 
ons-grade uranium from the Nuclear Materials and Equipment 
Corporation (NUMEC), a privately owned nuclear enriching 

* Duckett acknowledged that his faith in Teller was shaken more than a little, how- 
ever, a few years later when Teller arranged another meeting to confide that he was 
convinced that the Soviet Union would conduct a first strike with thermonuclear 
weapons across the United States on July 4, 1976 — the two hundredth anniversary of 
American independence. 


plant in Apollo, Pennsylvania. The company's owner, Zalman 
Mordecai Shapiro, a devout Jew with close ties to Israel, in- 
sisted that the uranium loss — first reported by Shapiro in 1965 
— was routine, an inevitable by-product of the difficult task of 
enrichment. Duckett and many others in the intelligence com- 
munity thought otherwise. Duckett acknowledged that he had 
no evidence that Shapiro's uranium had been diverted to Israel, 
but "made an assumption" that it had while preparing the up- 
dated Israeli estimate. "Assuming a crude device, Israel could 
have made four weapons with the Shapiro material," Duckett 
said, and the initial draft of the Memo to Holders revealed that 
there was new evidence suggesting that Israel had three to four 
nuclear weapons. 

Without the Teller report and the suspicions about Shapiro, 
Duckett acknowledged, the CIA didn't have much to go on. 
The Agency had been unable to determine whether Israel had 
built, as suspected, an underground chemical reprocessing 
plant at Dimona. The Agency also had not been able to pene- 
trate any of the military commands or intelligence services of 
Israel. And no Israeli had defected to the United States with 
nuclear information. The National Security Agency and its 
electronic eavesdropping also had not been much help, Duckett 
said, although it had provided early evidence suggesting that 
some Israeli Air Force pilots had practiced bomb runs in a 
manner that made sense only if nuclear weapons were to be 

Thin as its evidence was, Duckett was now willing to state in 
a top-secret written report that Israel was a nuclear power. The 
revised estimate was more than a little bit sensitive, Duckett 
knew, and he cleared it first with Dick Helms. The CIA direc- 
tor told Duckett not to publish the estimate in any form and 
also declared that he himself would be the messenger with bad 
tidings. Helms walked the Duckett information into the Oval 
Office and gave it to the President. Johnson exploded, as Helms 
later recounted to Duckett, and demanded that the document 
be buried: "Don't tell anyone else, even [Secretary of State] 
Dean Rusk and [Defense Secretary] Robert McNamara." 
Helms did as he was told, but not without trepidation: "Helms 


knew that he would get in trouble with Rusk and McNamara if 
they learned that he had withheld it."* 

Johnson's purpose in chasing Helms — and his intelligence — 
away was clear: he did not want to know what the CIA was 
trying to tell him, for once he accepted that information, he 
would have to act on it. By 1968, the President had no intention 
of doing anything to stop the Israeli bomb, as Helms, Duckett, 
Walworth Barbour, William Dale, and a very few others in the 
U.S. government came to understand. 

Moshe Dayan's unilateral action to push Dimona into full-scale 
production carried what should have been a huge risk — a nu- 
clear-armed Israel would find it impossible to sign the Non- 
proliferation Treaty, and Israel thus would not get its F-4S 
from the Johnson administration. The pressure from the Wash- 
ington bureaucracy on that issue remained intense, especially 
at the Pentagon, where Clark Clifford, who had replaced Rob- 
ert McNamara as secretary of defense at the end of January, 
and his senior aides were adamant. Clifford and his colleagues 
had no idea where their President really stood on the question 
of Israel and the NPT. In October 1968, one month before the 
presidential election, Johnson formally approved the F-4 sale in 
principle, but left the bargaining over delivery dates and other 
details to be negotiated. Paul C. Warnke, the assistant secretary 
of defense for international security affairs, recalled thinking 
there still was "an outside chance" Israel could be forced to 
sign the NPT in exchange for immediate delivery. "It was 
worth doing," he added, as a sign of a more even-handed ap- 
proach to the Middle East. 

Warnke called in Yitzhak Rabin, newly named as Israel's am- 

* Helms, despite his public image as a suave spymaster, was more of a bureaucrat 
than most newsmen and government officials in Washington could imagine. One of 
Helms's senior deputies recalled the occasion in the last year of the Johnson adminis- 
tration when an angry President ordered a twenty-four-hour halt to all CIA intelli- 
gence collection and reporting on Vietnam. The President's goal was to prevent a leak, 
and his assumption seemed to be that if he could stop the voluminous traffic to and 
from the CIA, he would do just that. Of course, shutting off the communications link 
had its obvious perils, and the senior CIA staff were sure that Helms would ignore, or 
override, the irrational presidential order. Not so. Although he most certainly knew 
better, Helms followed orders and stopped the traffic. "You don't question what a 
President can do," the CIA director told his dispirited aides. 


bassador to Washington, and began asking some tough ques- 
tions about the bomb — direct questions that, obviously, had 
never before been posed to him by a high-level American offi- 
cial. "I was trying to find out what they had," recalled Warnke, 
"and then stop it." The discomfited Rabin asked Warnke for a 
definition of a nuclear weapon: "I said," added Warnke, " 'It's if 
you've got a delivery device in one room and the nuclear war- 
head in another room.' " The ambassador then asked: "Do you 
have a nuclear weapon unless you say you do?" A Warnke aide, 
Harry H. Schwartz, also was at the meeting and recalled an 
even tougher Warnke remark. "Mr. Ambassador," Schwartz 
quoted Warnke as saying, "we are shocked at the manner in 
which you are dealing with us. . . . You, our close ally, are 
building nuclear bombs in Israel behind our back." Rabin de- 
nied it, said Schwartz. 

The ambassador, of course, was enraged by the encounter, 
which he subsequently claimed had nothing to do with nuclear 
weapons. In his memoirs, published in 1979, Rabin depicted the 
basic issue as Warnke's insistence that the United States, as a 
condition of the F-4 sale, be permitted to have on-site supervi- 
sion of every Israeli arms manufacturing plant and every de- 
fense installation engaged in research and development. "To 
say I was appalled would be a gross understatement," Rabin 
wrote. "I sat there stupefied, feeling the blood rising to my 
face." He left the meeting, he added, and began passing "broad 
hints" to Israel's supporters in Congress and elsewhere to gen- 
erate support for the F-4 sale. 

Rabin did more than just pass hints. He and Major General 
Mordecai Hod, the Israeli Air Force's chief of staff, went to see 
one of the few Americans who could get the President to 
change his mind — Abe Feinberg. "They were agitated," Fein- 
berg recalled. "Needed to see me right away. 'Everything 
you've done about the Phantoms is going down the drain. Clif- 
ford is insisting on the NPT.' " Feinberg had met privately a 
few weeks earlier with Johnson and Walter Rostow and heard 
the President declare that there would be "no conditions" to 
the F-4 sale. "So I picked up the telephone," he said, "called the 
White House, and asked for Rostow." The national security 
adviser was having dinner at Clifford's house, and Feinberg, 


who was well known to the White House switchboard opera- 
tors, was patched through. "Walt gets on the telephone," con- 
tinued Feinberg, u and I say, 'Walt, you and I and the President 
were together and Johnson said no conditions.' Walt agrees. I 
say, 'When you get back to the table, tell that to Clifford.' " 

Clifford, who did not recount the incident in his 1991 mem- 
oir, Counsel to the President, telephoned the President and got the 
message. Paul Warnke arrived at a later meeting of his staff, all 
of whom favored tying the F-4 sale to Israeli acceptance of the 
NPT, and dramatically drew his hand across his neck. The 
NPT was out. Harry Schwartz recalled Warnke's account of 
the Clifford-Johnson dialogue: "Clifford called Johnson and 
LBJ said, 'Sell them anything they want.' 

" 'Mr. President, I don't want to live in a world where the 
Israelis have nuclear weapons.' 

" 'Don't bother me with this anymore.' And he hangs up." 
Johnson had given essentially that same message at the begin- 
ning of the year to Dick Helms'. 

In his memoirs, President Johnson recounted with pride the 
formal White House ceremony in which the United States, 
the Soviet Union, and more than fifty other nations signed the 
NPT. The treaty, he wrote, was "the most difficult and most 
important ... of all the agreements reached with Moscow" 
during his presidency. Why, then, did he make it possible for 
Israel to flout the NPT and keep its F-4S? Johnson's decision 
had nothing to do with domestic politics or the heavy lobbying 
on the issue from Israel's supporters in the Congress: his 
abrupt conversation with Clark Clifford took place after Nixon 
had won the 1968 Presidential elections. There's also no evi- 
dence that Johnson felt he was in debt to the Israeli govern- 
ment for its support of his policies in Vietnam; American Jews, 
despite that support, were overwhelmingly hostile to the war. 
"A bunch of rabbis came here one day in 1967 to tell me that I 
ought not to send a single screwdriver to Vietnam," the Presi- 
dent complained to Israeli Foreign Minister Abba Eban in late 
1968, "but on the other hand, [the U.S.] should push all our 
aircraft carriers through the Strait of Tiran to help Israel." 
There is no ready explanation for Johnson's refusal to deal 


with the Israeli nuclear bomb. His decision not to stop the F-4 
sale had given Israel, as Johnson had to know, a high-perfor- 
mance aircraft capable of carrying a nuclear weapon on a one- 
way mission to Moscow. It was, perhaps, nothing more than 
his farewell gift to the Israeli people and his way of repaying 
the loyalty of Abe Feinberg. 

There is no question that Feinberg enjoyed the greatest pres- 
idential access and influence in his twenty years as a Jewish 
fund-raiser and lobbyist with Lyndon Johnson. Documents at 
the Johnson Library show that even the most senior members 
of the National Security Council understood that any issue 
raised by Feinberg had to be answered. In late October 1968, for 
example, Rostow was given a memorandum by a White House 
aide about Israeli press coverage of the "NPT-Phantom prob- 
lem . . . just to give you a factual basis for your continued 
dealings with Feinberg. . . ." By 1968, the government of Israel 
had rewarded Feinberg for his services by permitting him to 
become the major owner of the nation's Coca-Cola franchise. It 
would quickly become a multimillion-dollar profit center.* 

Feinberg's role as a fund-raiser was nonpareil in the Johnson 
White House: his cash was, on occasion, supplied directly to 
Walter W. Jenkins, the President's most trusted personal aide, 
and his fellow political operatives in the White House — and 
not to the Democratic Party. There were others in the Jewish 
political establishment, men such as Arthur B. Krim, the New 
York attorney and president of United Artists, who raised large 
amounts of money specifically for the Democratic Party. 
Feinberg's status was different, recalled Myer Feldman, John- 
son's aide for Jewish affairs: "Abe only raised cash — where it 
went only he knows." 

Feinberg acknowledged that he had a special cache: U A lot of 
people were afraid publicly to give as much as they could, so 

* Israel had rewarded other financial supporters with similarly lucrative business 
deals. In 1959, for example, Tricontinenal Pipelines, Ltd., an international investment 
group controlled by Baron Edmund de Rothschild, was given the concession to operate 
a sixteen-inch oil pipeline between Elat and Haifa, via Ashdod. The contract, signed by 
then Finance Minister Levi Eshkol on behalf of Israel, committed the state to ship at 
least 1.5 million tons of oil through the pipeline for the next fifteen years. Edmund de 
Rothschild was, according to Abe Feinberg, another major contributor to Dimona's 
start-up costs. 


they arranged sub rosa cash payments. It had to be done labori- 
ously — man-to-man. Raising money is a very humiliating pro- 
cess," he added. "People you don't respect piss all over you." 
Feinberg's special status became clear to some in the White 
House after the press revealed on October 14, 1964, that Walter 
Jenkins had been arrested a week earlier in the bathroom of a 
Washington YMCA on homosexual solicitation charges. The 
arrest took place three weeks before the 1964 presidential elec- 
tion. Johnson, in New York when word of the arrest — which 
he had attempted to suppress — became public, insisted that he 
and others in the White House distance themselves from the 
potentially scandalous incident. There was one immediate 
problem: at least $250,000 in cash that had been raised by Fein- 
berg was in Jenkins's safe and needed to be removed. Johnson 
telephoned Feldman and ordered him and Bill Moyers, another 
trusted aide and sometime speechwriter, to clean out Jenkins's 
safe. Feldman was not surprised by the assignment: "Jenkins is 
the only person who knew everything that was going on. He 
took shorthand notes — reams of notes — ever since Johnson 
came into the Congress." Feldman also knew that Jenkins was 
especially trusted on national security issues. What he and 
Moyers did not know was that they would find the Feinberg 
money. "Bill said, 'What do we do with this?' I said, 'I don't 
know. You handle it.' " The cash was in a briefcase. 

Moyers, asked about the incident in early 1991, said his mem- 
ory was vague, but acknowledged that "circumstances did lead 
me to believe" that Jenkins had a private cache of money in his 
safe. "I think there was a private fund. There was a lot of cash 
washed around in Washington in those days." Asked specifi- 
cally whether the cash was meant for the Democratic cam- 
paign, Moyers said, "I don't know and I don't know what 
happened to it. Anybody who smelled of money was always 
routed to Walter. He was the contact man for the contributors 
and he took his secrets to the grave with him." 

Moyers, now a prominent television personality, recalled the 
time in the Johnson White House when "a guy from North 
Carolina came to see me. He'd been routed from Walter — who 
wasn't in — to me. He had a leather satchel and left it in my 
office. I ran out and told my secretary to find him." The man 


was grabbed just as he was leaving the West Entrance, but re- 
fused to take back the briefcase. "He said," Moyers recounted, 
" 'Oh no, I left it for Jenkins and Moyers.' I told her to take it 
to Mildred [Walter Jenkins's secretary]." 

President Johnson, Moyers added, "was an equal opportu- 
nity taker. He'd take from friends and adversaries just because 
he thought that's the way the system worked. No decisions 
were made on the basis of cash," Moyers added, "but cash did 
give you access." Asked about Feinberg, Moyers said, "I always 
thought Abe Feinberg had a lot of impact on Johnson; he had a 
big role to play." 

Harry Schwartz, Paul Warnke's deputy, who died in early 1991, 
had a special reason to be frustrated by the Johnson administra- 
tion's inability to get Israel to sign the NPT. He had been 
stunned a year earlier when a group of Israeli military attaches 
had come into his Pentagon office and asked for a Low Altitude 
Bombing System (LABS) for nuclear weapons. The computer- 
ized bombing system provided time for an aircraft to drop its 
weapons and roll away to avoid the blast effects. "I just laughed 
at them," recalled Schwartz. The Israelis cited the buildup of 
the Egyptian Army across the Sinai Canal and insisted that the 
LABS was needed only to "lob" high-explosive bombs onto the 
Egyptian emplacements. "I told them," said Schwartz, "that 
any American who sells you a bombsight for that purpose is 
crazy, and I'm not crazy." 

There was a friendly private lunch early in the Nixon ad- 
ministration with Ambassador Rabin, well after Israel began 
receiving the F-4S. Schwartz decided to bring up the Israeli 
bomb, which Israel was still publicly insisting was only an op- 
tion: "I think what you should do is what you're doing now. 
Don't ever haul one out, because your little government will 
disappear. The Soviets almost assuredly have your country 

"Mr. Schwartz," calmly replied Rabin after a moment, "do 
you think we are crazy?" 


The Tunnel 

Israelis have done their best work from below. 

The huge underground laboratories at Dimona had their 
precedent in the Jewish struggle after World War II against the 
British mandatory power in Palestine. The British authorities 
had angered David Ben-Gurion and his followers by insisting 
that they adhere to the strict limits on Jewish immigration to 
Palestine that were set in 1939, after three years of Arab revolts. 
The British ruling had meant then that hundreds of thousands 
of Eastern European Jews were unable to escape the Holo- 
caust. And now those who had somehow managed to survive 
were again being denied a chance to come legally to Palestine. 
Many were faced with a desperate dilemma: either return to 
what was left of their prewar homes and prewar life or remain 
in the dispirited and overcrowded displaced persons (DP) 
camps scattered across Europe. 

The heavily outnumbered and outgunned members of the 
Hagannah, the Jewish underground, began the inevitable guer- 
rilla war against the British troops with little other than their 
guile and determination. One of the war's most imaginative 
operations involved what seemed to be yet another farming 
kibbutz that was set up in 1946 about fifteen miles outside Tel 
Aviv, adjacent to a large British military base. The kibbutz's 
administrative building was constructed, seemingly at random, 
within a half mile of the base. 

"The whole thing was a fraud," recalled Abe Feinberg, who 
had been recruited by Ben-Gurion the year before to help raise 
money for that and other guerrilla operations. The function of 
the kibbutz was not farming, but to provide cover for an elabo- 
rate and secret underground plant that was turning out bullets 


for the Sten submachine gun, the basic weapon of the Hagan- 
nah. Metal for the bullets had been shipped into Israel dis- 
guised as lipstick tubes, and it cleared British customs without 

The underground facility had been "scooped out," said Fein- 
berg, in twenty-seven days. The men and women who worked 
underground alternated that work with farming; those who 
completed a shift in the arms factory were ordered to muddy 
their shoes and sit under sunlamps so they could appear to the 
British and others as if they had been innocently tending crops 
or looking after the kibbutz's cows and sheep. Over the next 
two years, British soldiers and officers were constant — and un- 
suspecting — customers of the kibbutz's bakery and laundry, 
which cheerfully offered their services to the military. Feinberg 
recalled that a few of the British soldiers even made a point of 
coming to the kibbutz's Friday-night Shabbat dinners. Today 
the underground bullet factory is known as the Ayalon Mu- 
seum, a popular attraction for Israeli schoolchildren. 

Located a few hundred feet from the reactor, Dimona's chemi- 
cal reprocessing plant looked, on the surface, very much like an 
ordinary administration building — a nondescript two-story 
windowless facility, eighty by two hundred feet, containing a 
workers' canteen and shower rooms, a few offices, some ware- 
house space, and an air filtration plant. The building had 
thickly reinforced walls, not an unusual safety feature, given its 
location. Once inside, there was no hint of what had been dug 
out below, apparently to the same dimensions, to a depth of 
eighty feet: a six-level highly automated chemical reprocessing 
plant. A bank of elevators on the top floor was routinely 
bricked over before foreign visitors, such as the American in- 
spection teams headed by Floyd Culler, were permitted to 
enter the building. (Culler noted in his official reports during 
the 1960s that his team had seen evidence of freshly plastered 
and painted walls inside Dimona.) No outsider is ever known 
to have entered the reprocessing plant, whose long-suspected 
existence was not established until 1986, when the London Sun- 
day Times published an extraordinary inside account based on 


extensive interviews with a thirty-one-year-old Moroccan Jew 
named Mordecai Vanunu. 

Vanunu began working as a technican at Dimona in August 
1977 and spent much of the next eight years assigned to various 
tasks inside the reprocessing plant, formally known as Machon 
2 (machon means "facility" or "institute" in Hebrew) and infor- 
mally known as the Tunnel. The reprocessing plant, which 
was handling materials that were exceedingly "hot" — that is, 
highly radioactive — was the most sensitive area at Dimona; 
only 150 of Dimona's 2,700 employes worked there. A special 
pass was needed to enter the plant, and all movement inside, 
even to and from the bathroom, was — in theory — to be closely 
monitored. Vanunu, once at work in the Tunnel, found that the 
stringent security existed in theory only. Constantly in trouble 
for his public pro- Arab views, he had been laid off in mid-1985 
as part of a government-wide cutback. Vanunu appealed 
through his union, powerful as are all unions in Israel, and 
won back his job. It was at that point that he smuggled a cam- 
era into the reprocessing plant during an overnight shift and 
wandered around undetected for some forty minutes, taking 
fifty-seven color photographs. A few weeks later he was fired 
after calling for the formation of a Palestinian state during an 
Arab rally. Even then, again with help from his union, Vanunu 
was able to negotiate a settlement from Dimona's management 
that gave him severance pay and a letter attesting to his good 

A combination of factors — disenchantment with his life, dis- 
tress at the treatment of Arabs in Israel, and what he had 
learned inside Dimona — drove him to exile in Australia and 
eventually to the London Sunday Times. The newspaper's edi- 
tors and reporters were appropriately skeptical of Vanunu's 
account of the goings-on inside Dimona, but the photographs 
he had taken proved to be critical in finally establishing his 
credibility. However, even as he talked to the Sunday Times, he 
was being closely monitored by the Israeli government, whose 
operatives have long-standing ties to the London newspaper 
world. Copies of some of Vanunu's sensational photographs 
had been made available in London — before publication of the 
Sunday Times story — to an Israeli intelligence agent masquerad- 


ing as an American newspaper reporter. The photographs 
were sent by courier to the office of Prime Minister Shimon 
Peres, who ordered Mossad to get Vanunu out of London and 
into Israeli custody. No kidnapping could take place in En- 
gland for diplomatic reasons. Instead, the lonely Vanunu was 
enticed by a Mossad agent named Cindy Hanin Bentov (a 
pseudonym) to leave for Rome a few days before publication of 
the story. Once in Rome, Vanunu has told family members, he 
was taken by taxi to an apartment, where he was drugged and 
returned to Israel by ship to stand trial. He was sentenced in 
March 1988 to eighteen years in a maximum-security prison. 

Vanunu's Times interview and his photographs of many of 
the production units in the Tunnel, or Machon 2, provided the 
American intelligence community with the first extensive evi- 
dence of Israeli capability to manufacture fusion, or thermonu- 
clear, weapons. American intelligence also obtained a copy of 
many of the Sunday Times 's interview notes with Vanunu; those 
notes, some of which were also made available to the author, 
provided much more specific detail of the inner workings of 
Dimona than was published. Senior American officials, includ- 
ing men and women who have worked in nuclear weapons 
production and nuclear intelligence, uniformly agreed that the 
unpublished Vanunu notes are highly credible. One intelli- 
gence official who has been analyzing Israel's nuclear capability 
since the late 1960s depicted Vanunu's information, which in- 
cludes a breakdown of the specific function of each unit inside 
the Tunnel, as stunning: "The scope of this is much more ex- 
tensive than we thought. This is an enormous operation." 

The most exhaustive analysis of the Vanunu statements and 
photographs was conducted by the Z Division, a special intelli- 
gence unit at the Livermore Laboratories whose experts are 
considered to be the final word on proliferation issues. It is 
responsible for analyzing foreign nuclear weapons, with em- 
phasis on Soviet weaponry. "Z Division's only debate was over 
the numbers," recalled a former White House nonproliferation 
official. Vanunu told the Sunday Times that he believed the Is- 
raeli nuclear stockpile totaled more than two hundred war- 
heads, an astonishingly high number — the CIA and Defense 
Intelligence Agency were estimating into the early 1980s that 


Israel had only between twenty-four and thirty warheads. "On 
the basis of what Z Division knew," added the White House 
aide, "it could not relate those kinds of numbers to what they 
could see" in the Vanunu photographs. 

There was no evidence in the Vanunu materials of additional 
cooling capacity for Dimona's reactor, whose output would 
have had to have been dramatically increased to produce 
enough plutonium for two hundred warheads. Vanunu, how- 
ever, in a portion of his interview not published and not made 
available to Z Division, explained that a new cooling unit had 
been installed at the reactor while he was employed at 
Dimona.* American nonproliferation experts had indepen- 
dently learned in the last year of the Carter administration of 
the boost in Dimona's cooling capacity, further evidence of 
Vanunu's credibility as well as proof that the reactor was capa- 
ble of operating at a higher level and producing more pluto- 

Of extreme interest to the United States were Vanunu's pho- 
tographs of what apparently were full-sized models of Israeli 
nuclear weapons.** Copies of those photos were provided to 
weapons designers at the Los Alamos and Livermore laborato- 
ries for evaluation and analysis, and the designers, working 
from the photographs, constructed replicas of the Israeli weap- 
ons, as had been done with Soviet weapons in the past. They 
concluded that Israel was capable of manufacturing one of the 
most sophisticated weapons in the nuclear arsenal — a low-yield 
neutron bomb. Such weapons, which first came into the Amer- 
ican stockpile in the mid-1970s, utilize enhanced radiation and 
minimal blast to kill anything living within a limited range 

* Vanunu described the cooling unit to Frank Barnaby, a nuclear physicist and 
former employee of Britain's nuclear weapons installation at Aldermaston. Barnaby 
spent two days with Vanunu, at the request of the Sunday Times t in a continuing effort 
to verify his account. He concluded, the Sunday Times said, that Vanunu's account "is 
totally convincing." After leaving government service, Barnaby became director of the 
Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), an arms control study 
group funded by the Swedish government. 

## Mock-ups are commonly used for training purposes and military briefings in the 
American nuclear weapons complex, for the obvious reason that no one would want to 
work next to a fully operational nuclear warhead filled with highly enriched materials. 
The mock-ups are accurate replicas, in terms of external design and size, of a normal 
warhead, and American nonproliferation experts assumed that the Israelis' models 
were carefully prepared. 


with limited damage to property. The weapon actually is a 
two-stage thermonuclear device that utilizes tritium and deute- 
rium (both by-products of hydrogen), and not lithium deuter- 
ide, to maximize the release of neutrons. 

The Vanunu information also helped American intelligence 
experts date the progress of the Israeli nuclear arsenal. Vanunu 
revealed, for example, that Unit 92 in the Tunnel had been 
painstakingly removing tritium from heavy water since the 
1960s, indicating that physicists at Dimona — following Levi 
EshkoFs 1965 plea for advanced research — had been attempting 
from the earliest days of Dimona's production to manufacture 
"boosted" fission weapons. The United States began experi- 
menting in the early 1950s with boosting, which dramatically 
increases the yield, or destructiveness, of a single-stage fission 
device. Boosting is a process in which small quantities (a few 
grams) of tritium and deuterium are inserted directly into a 
plutonium warhead and designed to flood the warhead with 
additional neutrons at the moment of fission — in essence, jump- 
starting the weapon at the moment of critical mass — producing 
a bigger kick, or yield, with smaller amounts of plutonium. 
Vanunu also told the Sunday Times of returning from a vacation 
in 1980 — his first trip abroad since emigrating with his family 
to Israel in 1963 — and being assigned then to work at a new 
production plant for lithium 6, another essential element of the 
hydrogen bomb. In 1984, he further reported, a new facility 
(Unit 93) for large-scale production of tritium was opened. 
Lithium is irradiated in the reactor, then moved to Unit 93, 
where it is heated to release tritium in a gas form, along with 
helium and hydrogen. The gases are then driven under high 
pressure through an asbestos palladium column and separated. 
The helium is stored in powdered uranium and can again be 
released by heating. The opening of Unit 93 suggests that full- 
scale production of neutron weapons began then, for up to 
twenty grams of tritium are used in each neutron warhead. 

As described by Vanunu (and confirmed by the author in later 
interviews with Israeli officials), Dimona includes the reactor 
and at least eight other buildings, or Machons, the most impor- 
tant of which is the chemical reprocessing plant. Each building 


apparently is self-contained. Machon i is the large silver-domed 
reactor, sixty feet in diameter, that can be clearly seen from the 
nearby highway. The uranium fuel rods remain for three 
months in the reactor, which is cooled and moderated by heavy 
water. The heavy water is itself cooled by ordinary water flow- 
ing through a heat exchanger, creating steam, which in a nu- 
clear power plant would drive a turbine and create electricity. 
Instead, the steam in Machon i is vented into the atmosphere, 
creating a radioactive cloud.* Machon 2 is the chemical 
reprocessing plant. Machon 3 converts lithium 6 into a solid for 
insertion into a nuclear warhead and also processes natural ura- 
nium for the reactor. Machon 4 contains a waste treatment 
plant for the radioactive residue from the chemical reproces- 
sing plant in Machon 2. Machon 5 coats the uranium rods 
(shipped from Machon 3) with aluminum to be consumed in the 
reactor. The rods, once stacked in the core of the reactor, pro- 
vide the fuel needed to sustain a chain reaction — and capture 
weapons-grade isotopes of plutonium. Machon 6 provides basic 
services and power for Dimona. Machon 8 contains a labora- 
tory for testing samples and experimenting on new manufac- 
turing processes; it also is the site of Special Unit 840, where 
Israeli scientists have developed a gas centrifuge method of en- 
riching uranium for weapons use. There also is a laser-isotope- 
reprocessing facility for the enrichment of uranium in Machon 
9. Depleted uranium — that is, uranium with very little or no 
uranium 235 left — is chemically isolated in Machon 10 for even- 
tual shipment to the Israeli Defense Force or sale to arms man- 
ufacturers in Europe and elsewhere for use in bullets, armor 
plating, and artillery and bomb shells. The shells, buttressed by 
the heavy uranium, which is much denser than lead, can easily 
penetrate thick armor plating and are a staple in modern arse- 
nals. ** (There was no Machon 7 in the years he worked at 

* Vanunu said that the steam, contaminated to varying degrees by leaks and corro- 
sion, was vented only on those days when the prevailing wind was blowing toward the 
Jordanian border, about twenty-five miles to the east. It was one of those ventings, 
apparently, that was photographed by Army Colonel Carmelo Alba in 1965, providing 
the CIA with the first concrete evidence that Dimona was operational. 

** The American forces who fought in Desert Storm, the 1991 war against Iraq, 
were equipped with uranium-tipped bullets and antitank munitions. Some of the 
American tanks also were equipped with uranium armor plating for added defense 
against Iraqi attacks. 


Dimona, Vanunu told the Sunday Times, and he did not know 
what, if anything, had taken place there.) 

Dimona's most essential facility, of course, is the reproces- 
sing plant in Machon 2, where Vanunu spent most of his ca- 
reer. It is here that plutonium, a by-product of the fission 
process in the reactor, is extracted by chemical means from the 
spent uranium rods. The residual uranium is then reprocessed 
and reconstituted for use in new fuel rods. There are at least 
thirty-nine separate units in the six underground levels of the 
Tunnel, the most important of which is the production hall 
where the spent uranium rods undergo reprocessing. Before 
reprocessing can begin, however, the rods must be cooled for 
weeks in water-filled tanks, reducing radioactivity by a factor 
of several thousand. Even then, the radioactive rods are still 
lethal and are always handled by remote control and from be- 
hind lead shielding. The Tunnel's production hall dominates 
levels one through four below ground; work there is monitored 
by a large control room that includes an observation area 
known to technicians as "Golda's Balcony," a reference to 
Golda Meir's frequent visits after she became prime minister in 
1969. The end result of the chemical processing, according to 
Vanunu, is a weekly average of nine "buttons" of pure pluto- 
nium whose combined weight is 1.2 kilograms. 

The plutonium is fabricated by machine in a secure area on 
level five, the only floor in the Tunnel to which Vanunu was 
denied access. He eventually obtained a key and found a series 
of separate rooms — isolated for safety reasons — where the 
weapons-grade plutonium, now in metal form, is stored inside 
sealed glove boxes filled with argon, an inert gas. The glove 
boxes are designed so that workers can stand outside the "hot" 
area and manipulate remote-controlled robotic devices by hand 
to mold the plutonium pellets into microscopically thin hemi- 
spheres for insertion into a nuclear warhead. Other chemicals 
used in the Israeli nuclear arsenal, including lithium com- 
pounds and beryllium, also are machine-fabricated on the fifth 
level. Such milling involves exquisite machinery: any micro- 
scopic flaw in the interior surface of a bomb core can cause a 
significant reduction in the yield, or lead to a nonevent. The 
allowable tolerances are difficult for an outsider to compre- 


hend: the hemisphere of an American-made plutonium war- 
head, for example, is permitted to deviate from prescribed 
thickness by less than five ten-thousandths of an inch, about 
one-sixth the diameter of a human hair. 

Once completed, the weapons parts are moved by convoys of 
unmarked cars, under armed guard, to another facility to the 
north — not known to Vanunu — for assembly into warheads. Is- 
raeli officials subsequently told me that the final stage of war- 
head production takes place at a defense plant north of Haifa 
operated by Rafael, the top-secret Israeli research and manufac- 
turing agency that is responsible for Israel's most sensitive 

The Tunnel remained in operation around the clock for 
thirty-four weeks a year, according to Vanunu, and was shut 
down from July to November for routine maintenance and re- 
pair. American nuclear experts consulted about Vanunu's story 
describe the methods used to reprocess the spent uranium at 
Dimona as essentially routine; the industrial solvents and solu- 
tions used by the Israelis are the same as those relied upon at 
the Savannah River Plant in Aiken, South Carolina, where 
state-of-the-art heavy-water-production reactors have operated 
since the mid-1950s. 

What was surprising, however, was the scope of the Israeli 
operation. If Vanunu's information about the rate of plutonium 
reprocessing is correct — a steady production rate of 1.2 kilo- 
grams weekly — the reactor would be producing enough en- 
riched materials for four to a dozen or more bombs a year, 
depending on warhead design. The reactor also would have to 
be operating at about 120 to 150 megawatts, more than five times 
its officially stated output, and consuming nearly one hun- 
dred tons of uranium ore a year.* Some American experts be- 

* The nuclear fuel cycle is so precise that scientists can compute how much ura- 
nium was consumed by Dimona at a given reactor output. According to Vanunu, the 
average flow rate of dissolved uranium and plutonium through the chemical reproces- 
sing plant was 20.9 liters per hour with a uranium concentration of 450 grams per liter 
and a plutonium concentration of 170 to 180 milligrams per liter (or 0.39 milligrams of 
plutonium per gram of uranium). Vanunu said, however, that the actual flow rate in 
the Tunnel normally exceeded the standard flow rate by 150 to 175 percent, which 
corresponds to the reprocessing of as much as thirty-seven kilograms of weapons-grade 
plutonium a year, assuming eight months of continuous operation. Nuclear technicians 
have further noted that Vanunu claimed that the spent uranium fuel processed at 


lieve that Vanunu's statistics, whose essential accuracy is not in 
dispute, may reflect peak output, and not what is known as the 
normal flow rate. If so, Dimona could be producing sixteen to 
twenty kilograms of weapons-grade plutonium per year, 
enough for four or five warheads. 

What especially impressed American experts about Dimona's 
reprocessing plant was its location — underground — and its so- 
phistication. "You have to understand," an American ex- 
plained, "Machon 2 is very sophisticated because it's so hot. 
There's an extraordinary level of radioactivity. You need three- 
foot lead walls, all automated; people in suits; robotics. You're 
going to have a hell of a time keeping it undetected. So you go 
very deep." That, in turn, drives up the price of ventilation 
shafts, air intakes, and fan systems, as well as all ordinary con- 
struction costs. 

Going underground also posed enormous engineering risks 
that could be met only by superb master planning and expert 
intelligence. For example, the construction teams that initially 
built the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission's Savannah River 
Plant in South Carolina decided to put the thick, lead-shielded 
doors that protected the work force on custom-made coasters 
with specially engineered automated motors for opening and 
closing. "We didn't move the doors often enough," the Ameri- 
can added, "and the coasters flattened. The doors were too 
heavy and we had misjudged the physics. We had to stop the 
process to remove them. We didn't test this beforehand because 
we didn't think of it." 

The possibility exists, the official said, that the Israelis deter- 
mined from the outset that they could avoid such problems by 
finding out what had gone right — and wrong — from the Amer- 
icans who built the Savannah River Plant. "This is not highly 

Dimona contained a smaller concentration of plutonium — about 0.30 milligrams per 
gram instead of 0.39 milligrams per gram — suggesting that as much as 125 metric tons of 
uranium was needed to operate the reactor, far more than officially estimated. It is 
impossible to even roughly determine the amount of plutonium that has been produced 
at Dimona without knowing the power output and operating history of the reactor. 
That information remains a closely guarded state secret in Israel. The general accuracy 
and scientific validity of Vanunu's statistical data added to his credibility with Ameri- 
can intelligence officials. 


classified information — it's dumb-shit stuff that has to be done. 
That kind of intelligence is crucial to not having to reinvent 
the wheel. Anything you can learn about what the other guy 
has learned just leaps you forward." This, presumably, was one 
of the missions of Binyamin Blumberg and his Office of Special 
Tasks, which became known in the mid-1970s as the Science 
Liaison Bureau, or LAKAM. Blumberg's agents were operat- 
ing all over the world, collecting available technical informa- 
tion and also setting up front companies in Europe and Latin 
America for the purchase from the United States of high-tech 
equipment whose export to Israel would not be permitted. 

Another area of great sensitivity involved the science of 
robotics, whose most important early use in the United States 
came in the hot weapons laboratories where humans could not 
work. The precision involved in machining the thin plutonium 
hemispheres and placing them around the gases needed to cre- 
ate boosted nuclear weapons was achieved only after enormous 
strides had been made in the use of remote control. It was not 
an accident that Aharon Katzir (formerly Katchalsky), who be- 
came, like Ernst Bergmann, an intellectual force inside the Is- 
raeli Atomic Energy Commission, was world-renowned for his 
research into robotics at the Weizmann Institute. Katzir was 
even featured with some of his research apparatus on the cover 
of the December 3, 1966, issue of the Saturday Review; the article 
was entitled "Man's First Robot with Muscles." It reported on 
Katzir's pioneering work in converting chemical energy into 
the energy of motion. Katzir's team at the Weizmann Institute 
also was concentrating on the development of artificial muscle 
tissue for use in robots. His research was heavily funded by the 
U.S. Air Force's Office of Scientific Research; the Air Force's 
primary interest was in utilizing robotics in outer-space re- 
search. The Air Force had no idea that it was also helping to 
underwrite research for the Israeli nuclear arsenal; nor did it 
know that Katzir's main work was being done at Dimona, and 
not at the Weizmann Institute. 

Vanunu's revelations staunchly reaffirmed the recurring sus- 
picions of many in the American intelligence community that 
Israel either had covertly tested its advanced thermonuclear 
weapons, all of which needed to be miniaturized to fit into 


bombs and missile warheads, or somehow had managed to ob- 
tain illicitly the results of American testing. "We'd go through 
ten to twelve underground tests [at the American underground 
range in Nevada] just to come up with the data," one weapons 
expert recalled. "How could they spend that kind of money 
[for the underground reprocessing plant] without having 
tested? You'd have to be so certain of your intelligence. You just 
can't afford to be wrong." 

Despite such comments, there remains no actual evidence 
that Israel needed outside help for its nuclear weaponry. Dr. 
George A. Cowan, who spent more than twenty years design- 
ing nuclear weapons at Los Alamos, acknowledged that there 
always was a close association with Israeli physicists from the 
Weizmann Institute. "They've visited the labs [Los Alamos and 
Livermore] and probably are treated more openly than other 
visitors here, but there's too much emphasis to the notion that 
there's a secret that somebody has to tell them," Cowan said. 
"The Israelis are smart enough to do their own research. The 
need for secret information is largely promoted by spy novel- 
ists. There's very much less to it than most people believe." 
Like many of the scientists in the American nuclear laborato- 
ries, Cowan has a close Israeli friend who was involved with 
Dimona: "He never asked me anything over the years about the 
bomb and wouldn't have." Similarly, physicist Hans Bethe, the 
Nobel laureate who helped design the first American nuclear 
and thermonuclear weapons, recalled three visits to the 
Weizmann Institute during which his hosts would "take me 
anywhere and discuss anything with me. They knew I was 
interested in nuclear power reactors," he added, "and yet they 
never offered to take me to Dimona. I found that significant." 

If there was any solace for the American intelligence commu- 
nity in the wake of the startling Vanunu disclosures, which 
gave Washington the most specific evidence of an Israeli 
reprocessing plant, it was in the conviction that the extraordi- 
nary degree of master planning that had to take place at 
Dimona was little appreciated by senior officials in the Israeli 
chain of command. "It's unlikely," said one expert, "that the 
top people in the government of Israel truly understood" what 


was taking place at Dimona — just as America's intelligence ex- 
perts had failed to understand. 

The American experts got that one right, at least. Shimon 
Peres has confided to friends that during the early construction 
of Dimona he often signed requisition orders and other techni- 
cal documents on behalf of the Ben-Gurion government with- 
out knowing precisely what he had approved. 


Prelude to War 

Israel's development as a full-blown nuclear power by 
1969 could not have come at a more fortuitous time, in terms of 
the American presidency. Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger 
approached inauguration day on January 20, 1969, convinced 
that Israel's nuclear ambitions were justified and understand- 
able. Once in office, they went a step further: they endorsed 
Israel's nuclear ambitions. 

The two American leaders also shared a contempt for the 
1968 Nonproliferation Treaty, which had been so ardently en- 
dorsed in public by Lyndon Johnson. Nixon, midway in his 
campaign against Vice President Hubert H. Humphrey, dis- 
mayed the arms control community by urging the Senate to 
delay ratification of the NPT until after the election. He went 
further a few days later, telling newsmen in Charlotte, North 
Carolina, that he specifically was concerned about the NPT's 
failure to permit the transfer of "defensive nuclear weapons," 
such as mines or antiballistic missile systems, to non-nuclear 
powers. Government arms controllers were hugely relieved in 
early February 1969 when Nixon formally requested the Senate 
to take up the treaty and then stated at a news conference that 
he would do all he could to urge France and West Germany — 
known to have reservations — to sign it: "I will make it clear 
that I believe that ratification of the treaty by all governments, 
nuclear and non-nuclear, is in the interest of peace and in the 
interest of reducing the possibility of nuclear proliferation." 

In the secrecy of their offices, however, as only a few in the 
government knew, Nixon and Kissinger had simultaneously 
issued a presidential order to the bureaucracy undercutting all 
that was said in public. The classified document, formally 


known as National Security Decision Memorandum (NSDM) 
No. 6, stated that "there should be no efforts by the United 
States government to pressure other nations, particularly the 
Federal Government of Germany, to follow suit [and ratify the 
NPT]. The government, in its public posture, should reflect a 
tone of optimism that other countries will sign or ratify, while 
clearly disassociating itself [in private] from any plan to bring 
pressure on these countries to sign or ratify." 

"It was a major change in American policy," recalled Morton 
H. Halperin, then Kissinger's closest aide on the National Se- 
curity Council staff. "Henry believed that it was good to spread 
nuclear weapons around the world. I heard him say that if he 
were the Israelis, he would get nuclear weapons. He did not 
believe that the United States should try and talk them out of 
it." Kissinger also told his staff in the first months of 1969 that 
Japan, as well as Israel, would be better off with the bomb than 
without it. He was convinced, said Halperin, that nuclear 
weapons were essential to the national security of both nations. 
Kissinger's view was essentially pragmatic, added Halperin: 
most of the major powers would eventually obtain nuclear 
weapons, and the United States could benefit the most by help- 
ing them to do so rather than by participating in futile exer- 
cises in morality, such as the Nonproliferation Treaty. 

Kissinger's support for Israel's nuclear weapons program, as 
spelled out during his 1968 meeting at General Elad Peled's 
home, was widely known to the Israeli leadership. If an overt 
sign of the administration's stand was needed, it came quickly, 
with the decision in 1969 to end the Floyd Culler inspections of 
Dimona. The inspections, begun in 1962, had long been consid- 
ered by the American arms control community to be important 
in principle but in practice to have marginal utility; they 
dragged on without change, nonetheless, through the Johnson 
years. Israel resented the inspections as an intrusion on its sov- 
ereignty; there also was fear that Culler or one of his team 
might actually stumble onto something useful, especially as 
Dimona began gearing up in the late 1960s for the full-scale 
production of warheads. 

Culler's inspection in 1969 seemed to some Americans to be 


especially pointless, in the wake of President Johnson's last- 
minute decision to allow Israel to purchase its much-desired 
F-4S without insisting — as the State Department and Pentagon 
wanted — on Israeli ratification of the NPT in exchange. "Cul- 
ler's team came on a Saturday and spent only a few hours," 
recalled the late Joseph Zurhellen, then senior deputy to Am- 
bassador Wally Barbour in Tel Aviv. "You just can't walk in 
and take a guided tour. You've got to do an awful lot to deter- 
mine what's been done to a reactor." Zurhellen had no illusions 
about what was going on at Dimona: "The French had pulled 
the wool over our eyes and so had the Israelis." His point, in a 
memorandum he forwarded to Washington, was essentially one 
of public relations: the Israelis "could claim that our inspection 
showed Dimona to be clean, when in fact it showed nothing at 
all." Such complaints had been voiced before. 

But now Washington found it convenient to end the charade, 
and the inspections ended. They were never to be reinstated, as 
the Nixon administration made a judgment that would become 
American policy for the next two decades: Israel had gone nu- 
clear, and there was nothing that the United States could — or 
wanted to — do about it. 

The new policy soon worked its way through the bureaucracy, 
which reacted as the bureaucracy always did: it followed orders 
— with varying degrees of resentment. Charles N. Van Doren, 
who was deputy general counsel of the Arms Control and Dis- 
armament Agency in the Nixon administration, was convinced 
that Israel was the "Achilles heel" of America's NPT policy: 
"We were winking at it." Van Doren, who persevered for nine- 
teen years in the arms control bureaucracy, recalled he had 
repeatedly tried under Nixon and Kissinger "to get the NPT 
on the agenda for talks on the Middle East, but I was told there 
was too much on the table." He understood the underlying 
reason, of course: "An order had gone out that no nuclear in- 
formation on Israeli proliferation was to be put out. It was very 

* In November 1969, Kissinger and Nixon decided that "budgetary constraints" 
made it impossible for the United States to underwrite the much-discussed Israeli 
ambitions for a nuclear desalting plant. Israeli officials subsequently explained the 


The Nixon and Kissinger tolerance for a nuclear Israel also 
was reflected by the media. In July 1970, Carl Duckett's intelli- 
gence report on Israel's nuclear arsenal, which had been ini- 
tially suppressed in 1968 by Lyndon Johnson and later by 
Richard Helms, the CIA director, finally made its way onto the 
front page of the New York Times — and nobody cared. The Times 
story, written by Washington correspondent Hedrick Smith, 
provided the American public with its first account of the 
CIA's assessment of the Israeli nuclear arsenal, beginning with 
its lead sentence: "For at least two years the United States Gov- 
ernment has been conducting its Middle East policy on the 
assumption that Israel either possesses an atomic bomb or has 
component parts available for quick assembly." The Smith 
story also described Israel's progress in developing its Jericho I 
missile system and revealed that a manufacturing plant had 
been set up near Tel Aviv for the production of solid propel- 
lants and engines for the missiles. Smith recalled trying for two 
years to get the article published in the Times, and failing be- 
cause "I just didn't have it hard enough." He was given a boost 
that July by Senator Stuart Symington, the Missouri Demo- 
crat, who acknowledged on a Sunday television interview show 
that there was "no question that Israel is doing its best to de- 
velop nuclear weapons." The Symington peg helped Smith get 
the story published a few days later; the reporter, experienced 
in covering diplomatic affairs, awaited the attention he was 
sure the article would attract from others in the media and the 
Congress. Nothing happened. "I was astonished," Smith said. 
"Nobody could get near it. The networks didn't go for it." 
Neither did any of the Times's newspaper competitors, who 
found it impossible to confirm the story. "I had a sense of being 
way out in front of the field," said Smith. The reporter did hear 
from the Israeli embassy in Washington; there was a subse- 
quent meeting with a "very upset" Ambassador Yitzhak Rabin. 

decision not in terms of costs, but as stemming from a concern that the nuclear-pow- 
ered plant would become too much of a target for Arab terrorism in the wake of the 
Six-Day War and the renewed War of Attrition with Egypt. Nonetheless, the White 
House's decision, promulgated as NSDM 32, signed on behalf of the President by 
Kissinger, effectively ended the dispute over the Johnson administration's insistence on 
linking financial support for the plant to an Israeli commitment to permit inspection 
by the IAEA. 


"He repeated the standard line that Israel would not be the 
first to use it," said Smith, who recalled asking Rabin if he was 
specifically denying the story: "Rabin would not answer." 

By mid-1971, the White House's permissive attitude toward 
the Israeli bomb made it possible for even those officials re- 
sponsible for monitoring the shipment of sensitive materials to 
look the other way. Glenn R. Cella, a foreign service officer, 
was assigned that summer to handle political-military affairs on 
the State Department's Israeli desk; he also was named the de- 
partment's representative on the Middle East Task Force, an 
interagency group whose main mission was to monitor Ameri- 
can arms transfer policies. Cella, who had served in Morocco, 
Algeria, and Egypt, began asking about the Israeli bomb and 
quickly learned of Duckett's suppressed estimate. He also 
learned that if there was going to be any pressure on Israel to 
stop its nuclear weapons program, it would not come from the 
task force or the State Department. Israel was then pushing for 
the immediate shipment of more F-4S, and the State Depart- 
ment's Bureau of Intelligence and Research (INR) had been 
ordered to make a study of the military balance in the region. 
The study, when completed, made no mention of Israeli nu- 
clear capability, to Cella's dismay. "I thought we ought to face 
up to the fact that they had it," Cella said, u but nobody was 
allowed to talk about it." 

A few months later, Cella was notified that an Israeli request 
for the sale of krytrons had been routinely approved by his 
Pentagon counterpart on the task force. Krytrons, the inquisi- 
tive Cella was informed, were sensitive electronic timing de- 
vices used to trigger strobe lights. "I remember calling up [the 
Pentagon task force member] and being told, in essence, that 
you could buy this thing in a Hechinger's [a popular Washing- 
ton chain of hardware stores]," recalled Cella. "I wasn't told it 
was a central part in nuclear weaponry. Then I learned kry- 
trons triggered nuclear bombs." The high-speed device, whose 
export usually is closely monitored, is essential for the precise 
detonation of the chemical explosives that cause implosion in a 
nuclear weapon — facts that should have been known to the 
Pentagon official. 

Cella stayed on the Middle East desk for two years and 


quickly became marked, he said, as an Arabist — "which I re- 
sented." He'd learned his lesson, however. A year later the U.S. 
budget somehow included funds earmarked for the supply of 
two supercomputers to the Weizmann Institute. The com- 
puters' function, Cella knew, included nuclear simulation. "It 
was clear what they were for," he said, "but I didn't even try to 
fight it." 

The atmosphere wasn't much better at CIA headquarters. 
Richard Helms, the consummate bureaucrat, continued to 
please his superiors by stifling significant intelligence about the 
Israeli bomb. He'd also come to a personal conclusion about 
Israeli intelligence, repeatedly telling his deputies and aides 
that he was convinced Israel was funneling American satellite 
information to the Soviet Union. "The CIA got a copy of the 
Israeli [intelligence] requirements list in late 1972," Carl Duck- 
ett explained. "The Israelis were asking their contacts [in 
America] for overhead [satellite] intelligence. Helms was con- 
vinced the Israelis were doing it on behalf of the Soviets. He 
thought Israel was an open pipeline for pumping intelligence 
to Moscow." There was, of course, a much more direct expla- 
nation, one that Duckett and Helms could not envision in the 
early 1970s: Israel wanted the satellite imagery of the Soviet 
Union because of its own nuclear targeting needs.* 

The men and women in the bureaucracy understood, as did 
Helms, that the Israeli nuclear issue was taboo. "The issue had 
never been dealt with at the working level in State," explained 
David E. Long, a State Department Near East expert. Those 
State Department and Pentagon staff officers who in the early 
1970s wanted to learn more about Israel's nuclear weapons 
could not, Long added, because such intelligence carried the 
highest order of classification: "Whenever you moved an inch 

* Helms had no knowledge of science and found it difficult to testify as CIA director 
on technical nuclear issues before the Joint Atomic Energy Commission, as his position 
required. To his credit, Duckett said, Helms asked for help, and a series of educational 
briefings was arranged, amid great secrecy, in his office. At the first session, Helms was 
asked by his instructor, one of the Agency's leading experts in nuclear fission, whether 
he'd ever studied physics in high school. The answer was no. "Okay," said the instruc- 
tor, "we're going to start with the table of elements." Helms eventually spent a day 
with Duckett and other government officials at the nuclear underground test center in 
Nevada. After serving nearly eight years as the head of the CIA, he was appointed 
ambassador to Iran by Richard Nixon in early 1973. 


in that direction, you had to decide whether you wanted to 
make a crusade or get on with your job." On the other hand, 
Long said that he and others were constantly being informally 
questioned about Israel's nuclear arms by diplomats from the 
Middle East: "My response was to say that we don't know any- 
thing and here is what the Israelis say." Long recalled once 
being asked by a superior to put that response in writing, in a 
formal diplomatic note to a Middle Eastern nation. He refused. 
"I backed away and argued that we just should say 'No com- 
ment,' " he recalled. "I thought that delivering a deliberately 
false impression went beyond subterfuge. I wasn't a crusader. I 
just asked that someone else deliver the note. And they did." 
Curtis F. Jones similarly spent his career as a Middle East ex- 
pert in the Foreign Service; his final assignment from 1971 to 
1975 was as director of Near East, North African, and South 
Asian affairs for the Bureau of Intelligence and Research. 
"Stopping Israeli nuclear weapons was never an issue for the 
U.S. government, for as long as I was there," Jones said. u We 
never sat down and talked about it." 

The easing of the pressure from Washington removed any con- 
straints on Dimona and the Israeli leadership, which correctly 
interpreted the end of the Culler inspections as an American 
carte blanche. The technicians and scientists at Dimona began 
operating in the early 1970s exactly as their American and So- 
viet counterparts had done in the first days of the Cold War — 
the Israelis made as many bombs as possible.* 

By 1973, according to former Israeli government officials, the 
Israeli nuclear arsenal totaled at least twenty warheads, with 
three or more missile launchers in place and operational at 

* Between 1945 an d 1985 the United States manufactured an estimated sixty thou- 
sand nuclear warheads for 116 weapons systems, an average production rate of four per 
day. These ranged from huge thermonuclear city busters to an atomic warhead for a 
jeep-mounted bazooka. In a 1985 essay, three critics of the American arsenal, Robert S. 
Norris, Thomas B. Cochran, and William M. Arkin, concluded: "Bureaucratic compe- 
tition and inertia have led to nuclear warheads for every conceivable military mission, 
arm of service, and geographic theater — all compounded by a technological momentum 
that overwhelmed what should have been a more sober analysis of what was enough 
for deterrence. The result is a gigantic nuclear weapons system — laboratories, produc- 
tion facilities, forces, and so on — that has become self-perpetuating, conducting its 
business out of public view and with little accountability." 


Hirbat Zachariah; Israel also had an unknown number of mo- 
bile Jericho I missile launchers that had been manufactured as 
part of Project 700. The missiles had been capable since 1971 of 
hitting targets in southern Russia, including Tbilisi, near the 
Soviet oil fields, and Baku, off the coast of the Caspian Sea, as 
well as Arab capitals. There also was a squadron of nuclear- 
capable F-4 fighters on twenty-four-hour alert in underground 
revetments at the Tel Nof air base near Rehovot. The specially 
trained F-4 pilots were the elite of the Israeli Air Force and 
were forbidden to discuss their mission with any outsider. The 
long-range F-4S were capable of flying one-way to Moscow 
with a nuclear bomb; the daring pilots would have to be resup- 
plied by an airborne tanker to make it home. 

By this time, Dimona had solved many of the basic problems 
of weapons miniaturization; the smaller warheads provided Is- 
raeli weapons designers with an array of options that included 
the development of low-yield tactical weapons for battlefield 
use. The United States had done its part by approving the sale 
of long-range 175mm and 203mm cannons to the Israeli Defense 
Force in the early 1970s; those weapons, capable of striking 
targets twenty-five miles away, also became part of the Israeli 
nuclear option. American intelligence later learned that Israel 
had experimented by fusing together two long-range artillery 
barrels to produce a cannon capable of hurling a shell more 
than forty-five miles. 

The Israelis also had contracted with Dr. Gerald Bull, a con- 
troversial Canadian arms designer, for the supply of specially 
configured artillery shells whose range was extended as much 
as 25 percent.* There were some American weapons experts 

* Bull was killed outside his home in Brussels in March 1990 by assassins widely 
suspected of working on behalf of the Israelis. At the time of his death, Bull had 
accomplished for Iraq's artillery what he had done for the Israelis. There was high- 
level Israeli concern over Bull's success in constructing a "supergun" for the Iraqis — a 
weapon, as the Israelis knew only too well, that provided Iraq with the ability to 
threaten Israel with long-range chemical, biological, or conventional high-explosive 
shells. Bull's initial contracts with Israel phased out in the mid-1970s; his firm, the 
Space Research Corporation (SRC), later did business with South Africa and China 
from an eight-thousand-acre compound straddling the Vermont-Canadian border. 
Bull's partners in SRC during much of the 1970s included the Arthur D. Little Com- 
pany, a highly respected management research firm. Four executives from Arthur D. 
Little were on the SRC board of directors. The mysterious Bull spent six months in a 
federal jail after pleading guilty in 1980 to one count of selling cannons, shells, and a 


who understood what Israel's real goal had to be, given the 
inaccuracy of an artillery shell fired at such long range. "If 
you're going forty-five miles and precision is three percent of 
range," explained one expert, "what would you hit with an HE 
[high explosive] shell? Nothing much. You'd need a nuclear 
weapon." This American, who was a senior official at one of 
the U.S. Army's weapons testing facilities, had visited Israel in 
1973 an d h a d been told of the intended use of the long-range 
cannons, information he dutifully reported to U.S. intelli- 
gence. There also were suggestions, added the American, that 
Israel had targeted Damascus, Syria's capital, with the special 
cannons during the Yom Kippur War. Washington got the mes- 
sage. A senior State Department intelligence official recalled 
widespread concern in the early 1970s over the ambitious Israeli 
artillery program. "Our supposition was that they'd developed 
a miniaturized [nuclear] artillery shell and wanted to test it," 
the official said. 

As the Israeli weapons program prospered, there was a new 
element of caution inside the Israeli government and the mili- 
tary commands. The political struggles and infighting were put 
aside as the new weapon became standardized for battlefield 
use. There was doctrine to write and training to get done. The 
Israeli leadership had to work out procedures for the actual use 
of the bomb; at one early stage it was agreed that no nuclear 
weapon could be armed and fired without authorization from 
the prime minister, minister of defense, and army chief of staff. 
The rules of engagement subsequently were modified to in- 
clude the head of the Israeli Air Force; the air force's warheads 
were reportedly maintained in preassembled units in special 
secure boxes that could be opened only with three keys, to be 
supplied by representatives of the top civilian and military 
leadership. Other fail-safe mechanisms, if any, could not be 
learned. "The day we had enough bombs to feel comfortable," 
one Israeli military officer explained, "we stopped talking 
about it. People realized the moment that the bomb was upon 
us that we'd become targets, too." 

radar van to South Africa without a license — although he insisted until his death that 
his activities on behalf of South Africa had been sanctioned by the American intelli- 
gence community. 


The increased security of the early 1970s had one immediate 
casualty: Minister of Defense Moshe Dayan. Dayan's standing 
among his peers in the military and the upper echelons of the 
Israeli government was far lower than among the public; he 
was considered overrated as a military leader and suspect be- 
cause of his incessant womanizing and his financial wheeling 
and dealing — there was categorical evidence, never officially 
acted upon, of his appropriation of excavated antiquities for 
personal use, in direct violation of Israeli law.* The main com- 
plaint about Dayan, however, was over his propensity to talk: 
one close army associate declared that "he had the biggest 
mouth in the world." The Israeli added: "The feeling was that 
he was a loose cannon at a time when Israel was in a very 
precarious situation. We wanted the Arabs to know what we 
had" — without explicitly saying too much. Dayan, with his 
public statements and leaks to the press, blurred that tactic. 
There was another problem, the Israeli added: "Dayan went to 
bed with everything that moved" — not that unusual a trait 
among aggressive Israeli military men — "but he was totally ca- 
pable of meeting a good-looking woman and telling her about 
Dimona. He and Peres felt like they were almost parents" of 
the nuclear complex. While Dayan lost no authority, it was 
eventually made clear to him, the Israeli said, that he was no 
longer welcome at Dimona; he no longer had a military need to 
know anything about the Israeli nuclear program, which was 
being managed out of the prime minister's office. 

Tragedy struck the program in May 1972, when Aharon 
Katzir, the innovative physicist in charge of Dimona, was 
killed in a Japanese Red Army terrorist attack at Lod Airport 
near Tel Aviv; there is no evidence that Katzir was specifically 
targeted. His replacement, Shalheveth Freier, was a nuclear 

* Dayan outraged many of his countrymen after the Six-Day War, when the biblical 
lands of the West Bank and Gaza were once again open to Israeli academics and archae- 
ologists, by commandeering military units to cordon off areas known to be rich in 
antiquities. Dayan, with the help of the troops, would then remove artifacts — many of 
them invaluable — for his personal gain. He eventually established an antique garden in 
the rear of his home in Zahala, an exclusive suburb of Tel Aviv. The minister of 
defense's activities led to occasional critiques in the Israeli press, but no government 
investigation. Americans who served as diplomats and military attaches in Israel have 
acknowledged the purchase of antiques from Dayan, who invariably insisted on pay- 
ment in American dollars. 


physicist with impeccable credentials; he had served as scien- 
tific counselor to the Israeli embassy in Paris in the critical 
days of the 1950s, when the Israeli-French nuclear understand- 
ing was reached. Freier also enjoyed high standing among in- 
ternational scientists and was particularly well known to 
American nuclear weapons designers, many of whom under- 
stood exactly what he did. 

The researchers at Dimona and the Weizmann Institute con- 
tinued to produce superb work. In 1973, two Israeli scientists 
caused a stir in the academic and intelligence world by receiv- 
ing a West German patent for a laser process that, as they 
claimed, could cheaply produce as much as seven grams of ura- 
nium enriched to 60 percent U-235 in twenty-four hours. The 
research paid off six years later, according to Mordecai 
Vanunu, when Dimona opened a special Machon for the pro- 
duction of laser-enriched uranium. 

The burgeoning nuclear bastion at Dimona may have officially 
remained a secret to the world, but the Israeli intelligence com- 
munity discovered in the early 1970s that the Soviet KGB had 
penetrated the top offices of the defense ministry and intelli- 
gence establishment and was relaying the essentials of major 
strategic decisions to Moscow and its allies in the Middle East. 
The unraveling of the Soviet operation was initiated by one of 
the most secret units in the Israeli military, Detachment 515 
(later redesignated Detachment 8200), which is in charge of sig- 
nals intelligence and code-breaking — the Israeli equivalent of 
the U.S. National Security Agency. 

One of the detachment's most senior officers was Reuven 
(Rudi) Yerdor, an accomplished linguist who had cracked a So- 
viet code — for which he later received Israel's highest defense 
medal — that had masked the communications between KGB 
headquarters in Moscow and its regional base in Cyprus. The 
Israelis began poring over the backlog of undeciphered Soviet 
message traffic and discovered that many of the major secret 
decisions of the Israeli defense ministry, including those deal- 
ing with nuclear weapons, were being reported to Moscow 
within, in some cases, twelve hours. "They went apeshit," re- 
called a former Israeli intelligence officer, "and set up a special 


team to begin an investigation." The team was headed by Shin 
Beth, Israel's internal security agency, and included members 
from Mossad and Prime Minister Meir's office. Yet it was un- 
able to find out how the KGB, which continued its spying dur- 
ing the secret inquiry, was able to transmit its intelligence out 
of Israel. The investigators were able, however, to determine 
that only a small number of Israeli officials had access to all the 
material that had been funneled to the KGB — including at least 
one of Golda Meir's personal aides. A few of the suspects, in- 
cluding the aide, cleared themselves by passing lie detector 
tests; others chose not to take the test, and the matter was left 
unresolved, to the acute frustration of the investigators.* 

There was an ironic twist to the spy scandal, for the senior 
leadership of the Israeli government understood from the mo- 
ment of the first collaboration with the French that the Soviets 
not only were the primary targets of the nuclear arsenal but 
would be among the first to be told of its existence. By 1973, 
Dimona's success in miniaturization enabled its technicians to 
build warheads small enough to fit into a suitcase; word of the 
bomb in a suitcase was relayed to the Soviet Union, according 
to a former Israeli intelligence official, during one of what ap- 
parently was a regular series of meetings in Europe between 
representatives of Mossad and the KGB. The Soviets under- 
stood that no amount of surveillance could prevent Israeli 
agents from smuggling nuclear bombs across the border in au- 
tomobiles, aircraft, or commercial ships. 

Israel's leadership, especially Moshe Dayan, had nothing but 
contempt for the Arab combat ability in the early 1970s. In 
their view, Israel's main antagonist in the Middle East was and 
would continue to be the Soviet Union. Dimona's arsenal, 
known by the Kremlin to be targeted as much as possible at 

* One of the most nagging questions of the inquiry had to do with the transmission 
of the intelligence. How did the KGB spies get the information out? At one point, a 
knowledgeable Israeli said, the investigators turned to the National Security Agency 
for help, but the NSA was unable to come up with an answer. Years later, an Iranian 
general spying for the KGB in Iran was arrested and found to be carrying an American 
satellite communication device, which he had used for filing his intelligence reports. 
"Once he was caught," the former Israeli officer added, "they said, 'Ah-ha. This ex- 
plains why no messages [out of Israel] were intercepted.' The Soviets stole the Ameri- 
can satcom device and did better with it than we did." 


Soviet cities, theoretically would deter the Soviets from sup- 
porting an all-out Arab attack on Israel; the bombs also would 
give pause to any Egyptian or Syrian invasion plans. 

These were years of status quo for Israeli diplomacy. Israel 
had a steady flow of American arms and American acquies- 
cence in its continued control of the occupied territories, 
where settlements were systematically being constructed. 
Those territories, and the land they added to the national bor- 
ders, had done nothing to diminish Israel's hunger for more 
advanced weapons — defense spending rose by 500 percent be- 
tween 1966 and 1972. 

The death of Nasser in September 1970 had not altered the 
basic equation in the Middle East; his successor, Anwar Sadat, 
was, in the view of Prime Minister Golda Meir and her cabinet, 
nothing more than yet another unyielding threat to Jews. The 
new Egyptian leader had been jailed by the British authorities 
during much of World War II because of his openly pro-Ger- 
man stance and his public endorsement of Hitler; the fact that 
his actions were more anti-British than pro-German was of lit- 
tle solace to the Israeli leadership. Sadat, however, broke new 
ground by offering the Israelis a peace agreement shortly after 
taking office — the first Arab leader willing even to discuss such 
a commitment. In return, the Israelis were to withdraw to the 
1967 borders. The Sadat offer was rejected out of hand by Golda 
Meir (only Dayan urged that it be explored); she viewed the 
compromise as nothing more than a starting point for extended 

Sadat waited for Washington to intervene. That did not hap- 
pen, and the bitterly disappointed Egyptian president, in trou- 
ble at home and ridiculed by many of his Middle Eastern peers, 
tried again in mid-1972 to get Washington's respect; he abruptly 
ordered Soviet troops and advisers out of Egypt to demon- 
strate, in part, that Egypt was not pro-Communist. Nixon and 
Kissinger were astonished, as was the rest of the world, at the 
Soviet ouster, but they mistakenly viewed it as only reaffirma- 
tion of their policy of support for Israel. Kissinger went fur- 
ther and privately reviled Sadat as a fool who, by acting 
unilaterally and emotionally, had thrown away an opportunity 
to use the Soviet explusion as a bargaining tool. Sadat ended up 


with no diplomatic gains from the West and eventually con- 
cluded that the only way he— and Egypt — would be taken seri- 
ously was to go to war with Israel. 

Israel, preoccupied by the Soviet threat, saw the expulsion as 
diminishing any real chance of war. On paper, Israel's army 
and air force were more than a match for even the combined 
forces of the Arab Middle East. Without Soviet backing, no 
Arab nation would dare to initiate a fight. There would be no 
peace, perhaps, but there was no immediate threat to continued 
Israeli control of the captured territories. This message came 
through loud and clear in the late summer of 1973 to Kenneth B. 
Keating, a former Republican senator from New York who was 
Wally Barbour's replacement as U.S. ambassador to Israel. In 
August, Keating and his deputy, Nicholas A. Veliotes, paid a 
courtesy call on Moshe Day an, whom they found to be not just 
confident, but swaggering. There had been constant talk that 
summer of an impending Arab attack, Veliotes recalls, and the 
embassy had been put on a higher alert. Dayan was asked if he 
was worried. His response, recalled Veliotes, was " 'Don't 
worry.' He described the Arab armies in the desert as 'rusty 
ships slowly sinking' — as if the desert were a sea. It was very 
arrogant." Dayan's comments were accepted without challenge 
at the time, said Veliotes: "We had a great belief that the Israelis 
knew more than we did. We also were mesmerized by 1967" — 
the Six-Day War. 

Israel wasn't ready when Sadat attacked across the Sinai and 
Syria invaded the Golan Heights on Saturday, October 6, 1973 
— Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, the holiest day of the 
year for a Jew. The first days were a stunning rout. Israeli 
soldiers were being killed as never before; some units simply 
fled in disarray from battle. Five hundred tanks and forty-nine 
aircraft, including fourteen F-4 Phantoms, were lost in the first 
three days. In the Sinai, Egyptian forces, equipped with mis- 
siles and electronic defenses, blasted through the Bar-Lev de- 
fense line along the eastern bank of the canal and soon had two 
large armies on the eastern bank. The initial Israeli counterat- 
tacks by three tank divisions were beaten off". On the Golan 
Heights, Syrian forces, bolstered by fourteen hundred tanks, 
rolled through Israeli defenses and moved to the edge of Gali- 


lee. Only a few Israeli tanks stood between the Syrians and the 
heavily populated Hulla Valley. Haifa was just hours away. 

Many Israelis thought it was all over — that, as Moshe Dayan 
said, "this is the end of the Third Temple." The extent of 
Dayan's panic on Monday, October 8, has never been fully re- 
ported, but it is widely known among Israelis. One of Dayan's 
functions as defense minister was to provide the censored me- 
dia and their editors-in-chief with a daily briefing on the war — 
in essence, to control what they wrote. One journalist, a retired 
army general, who attended the Monday session, recalled 
Dayan's assessment: "The situation is desperate. Everything is 
lost. We must withdraw." There was talk in a later meeting of 
appeals to world Jewry, distribution of antitank weapons to 
every citizen, and last-ditch resistance in the civilian popula- 
tion centers. It was Israel's darkest hour, but no withdrawal 
was ordered. 

Instead, Israel called its first nuclear alert and began arming 
its nuclear arsenal. And it used that alert to blackmail Washing- 
ton into a major policy change. 


Nuclear Blackmail 

Moshe Dayan's fears and Israel's gloom were turned 
around during a dramatic meeting on Monday, October 8, at 
Golda Meir's office in Tel Aviv, just a few hundred feet from 
"the Bor," the military's huge underground war complex. 
Meir's closest aides, the so-called kitchen cabinet, assembled for 
what turned out to be an all-night session. Among those in 
attendance, besides Dayan and Meir, were General David 
(Dado) Elazar, the army chief of staff; Yigal Allon, the deputy 
prime minister; Brigadier General Yisrael (Gingy) Leor, the 
prime minister's military aide; and Israel Galili, the influential 
minister without portfolio and longtime confidant of Meir. 

Over the next hours, the Israeli leadership — faced with its 
greatest crisis — resolved to implement three critical decisions: 
it would rally its collapsing forces for a major counterattack; it 
would arm and target its nuclear arsenal in the event of total 
collapse and subsequent need for the Samson Option; and, fi- 
nally, it would inform Washington of its unprecedented nu- 
clear action — and unprecedented peril — and demand that the 
United States begin an emergency airlift of replacement arms 
and ammunition needed to sustain an extended all-out war ef- 

The kitchen cabinet agreed that the nuclear missile launch- 
ers at Hirbat Zachariah, as many as were ready, would be made 
operational, along with eight specially marked F-4S that were 
on twenty-four-hour alert at Tel Nof, the air force base near 
Rehovot. The initial target list included the Egyptian and Syr- 
ian military headquarters near Cairo and Damascus. It could 
not be learned how many weapons were armed, although 
Dimona was known to have manufactured more than twenty 


warheads by 1973. No weapons were targeted on the Soviet 
Union, but there was little doubt that the Soviets would 
quickly learn what was going on. Israeli intelligence was inter- 
cepting indecipherable signals from what were presumed to be 
Soviet operatives inside the country; the encoded messages 
were beamed throughout the early morning. 

All of the key players are now dead, and none left any record of 
what took place. (In his daily diary, published in Hebrew, Gen- 
eral Elazar blacked out the night of October 8 and recorded 
only the following phrase: "Crucial meeting.") There is wide- 
spread knowledge among the Israeli defense and political lead- 
ership of what took place at the crucial meeting, but in 
subsequent years those who were there — including stenogra- 
phers and advisers — have never talked publicly about it. 

The only significant objections came from within the nuclear 
community, some of whose senior officials — but not Freier — 
were said by an Israeli source to have accused the senior offi- 
cials, in essence, of panicking. Their view was that the situa- 
tion had not yet been reached for weapons of last resort, which 
were then code-named, appropriately, the "Temple" weapons. 

One former Israeli government official who was in the prime 
minister's office that night depicted the chain-smoking Meir, 
who slept very little during the early stages of the war, as con- 
fused and concerned by Dayan's report of imminent collapse. 
The basic decision to arm the weapons of last resort was 
reached easily, he said; there were far more complicated discus- 
sions of how many warheads to arm and where they were to be 
targeted. There was a separate, preliminary briefing by techni- 
cal experts from Dimona, led by Shalheveth Freier, who de- 
scribed the weapons and targets that were available for 
immediate assembly. 

The senior official also described the fear that swept through 
the prime minister's staff" when the arming of nuclear weapons 
became known: "There were a few days there when it seemed 
that the end of the world was near. For those of us who lived 
through the Holocaust, we knew one thing — it will never hap- 
pen again." The aide learned what happened from General 
Leor, Meir's military assistant: "Gingy told me about the arm- 


ing of the weapons. We were very intimate." The young gen- 
eral, who later died of cancer, had a child on duty at the front 
and was, as he told the aide, "scared to death." 

One Israeli assumption was that the Soviets, who would 
learn — as they had learned other secrets inside Israel in recent 
years — of the nuclear arming, would then be compelled to urge 
their allies in Egypt and Syria to limit their offensive and not 
attempt to advance beyond the pre-1967 borders. And a Soviet 
warning was given, according to Mohammed Heikal, editor of 
Al-Abram, the leading Egyptian newspaper, and eminence grise to 
Nasser and Sadat. In an interview, Heikal revealed that the 
Soviet Union had told the senior leadership of Egypt early in 
the war that the "Israelis had three warheads assembled and 
ready." The information was given to General Mohammed 
Abdel Ghany el-Gamasy, the Egyptian chief of staff, by a So- 
viet intelligence officer who had worked closely with el- 
Gamasy when he served earlier as chief of military intelligence. 
The Soviet message also reported, Heikal recalled, that Moshe 
Dayan had visited the front and returned to Tel Aviv "with a 
scary report" that was presented to Golda Meir's equally 
alarmed kitchen cabinet. 

There was an equally important second purpose for the arm- 
ing of nuclear weapons, according to former Israeli govern- 
ment officials: such a drastic step would force the United States 
to begin an immediate and massive resupply of the Israeli mili- 
tary. There was widespread rage inside the Israeli cabinet at 
the Nixon White House — aimed especially at Henry Kissinger 
— over what was correctly perceived in Israel as an American 
strategy of delaying the resupply in an attempt to let the Arabs 
win some territory, and some self-respect, and thus set up the 
possibility of serious land-for-peace bargaining. Kissinger, 
just sworn in as secretary of state, would direct the negotia- 

Kissinger made no secret of his initial strategy in the war, tell- 
ing James R. Schlesinger, the secretary of defense, that his goal 
was to "let Israel come out ahead, but bleed." Kissinger's goal 
was defended by some of his fellow diplomats as business as 


usual. "Trying to take advantage of the situation?" rhetorically 
asked Nicholas Veliotes. "We always do this." 

In the second volume of his memoirs, Years of Upheaval, Kis- 
singer made no mention of a nuclear threat, but he did describe 
a series of urgent telephone calls from Simcha Dinitz, the Is- 
raeli ambassador to Washington, that began at 1:45 a.m. on Tues- 
day, October 9 — just as the all-night meeting in Golda Meir's 
office was breaking up (it was 8:45 a.m. in Israel). Dinitz focused 
on one question, wrote Kissinger: "What could we do about 
resupply?" The same question was asked again, in a second 
telephone call, at 3:00 a.m. "Unless he wanted to prove to the 
[Israeli] cabinet that he could get me out of bed at will," wrote 
Kissinger, "something was wrong." Kissinger, accompanied by 
Peter W. Rodman, his longtime assistant, and Dinitz, accompa- 
nied by General Mordecai Gur, the Israeli military attache, 
met at 8:20 a.m. in the Map Room of the White House, where 
Kissinger was told of the desperate situation of the Israeli mili- 
tary and the need for more tanks and aircraft. "Israel stood on 
the threshold of a bitter war of attrition that it could not possi- 
bly win given the disparity of manpower," Kissinger said. "It 
had to do something decisive." At one point during the Map 
Room meeting, Kissinger wrote, Dinitz insisted that he and 
Kissinger needed to be alone. Rodman and Gur, who both 
could be trusted with the most sensitive information, were dis- 
missed. Once they were alone, Dinitz's message, according to 
Kissinger, was merely that Golda Meir "was prepared to come 
to the United States personally for an hour to plead with Presi- 
dent Nixon for urgent arms aid. . . ." It was a request that 
Kissinger could, and did, as he wrote, reject "out of hand and 
without checking with Nixon. Such a proposal could reflect 
only either hysteria or blackmail." 

A more complete account of the Dinitz message would un- 
doubtedly show that it was closer to blackmail, as Kissinger 
knew, and it worked. "By the evening of October 9," Kissinger 
said in his memoir, "Israel had been assured that its war losses 
would be made up. Relying on this assurance, it stepped up its 
consumption of war materiel, as we had intended." 

How was Israel's warning of a potential Armageddon deliv- 
ered to the United States? Neither Kissinger nor Dinitz could 


be reached to discuss the subject, although Dinitz's insistence 
on the one-on-one meeting with Kissinger — as well as Kis- 
singer's description of the Dinitz message as "blackmail" — 
seems obviously linked to the nuclear issue. Word of the Israeli 
nuclear arming also came from the Soviets, according to a for- 
mer IsraSeli intelligence official. The official said that Detachment 
8200, the Israeli communications intelligence agency that had 
picked up the Soviet warning to Cairo — as acknowledged by 
Heikal — also intercepted on the morning of October 9 a Soviet 
warning to Washington about the Israeli arming of nuclear 
weapons. Asked why he thought the United States has never 
publicly mentioned such a warning, the Israeli responded: "Who 
in the U.S. is ready to admit that the Soviets were ahead?" 

Kissinger has never talked publicly about the Israeli nuclear 
arming, and his closest advisers at the time, including Rodman 
and William G. Hyland, then handling Soviet affairs for the 
National Security Council, said they knew of no such informa- 
tion. The best source for what happened, nonetheless, is Kis- 
singer himself, who privately acknowledged that there had 
been an Israeli nuclear threat both to Anwar Sadat and to Her- 
mann F. Eilts, the American ambassador to Egypt who worked 
closely with Kissinger during the intense Middle East shuttle 
diplomacy of the mid-1970s. 41 

Eilts had been handpicked in October 1973 by Kissinger for 
the assignment to Cairo, and he arrived there at the end of the 
Yom Kippur War. His first detailed conversation with Kis- 
singer about his new assignment couldn't have been more dra- 
matic. It took took place, at Kissinger's request, at a hastily 
arranged breakfast in early November in Islamabad, Pakistan, 
where Kissinger had stopped overnight en route to a much- 
delayed visit to China. "Henry spoke a lot about how on the 
fourth day of the war [October 9] the Israelis panicked," Eilts 
recalled, "and that's when the judgment was made to assist 
them. At that point" — and in similar discussions with Kis- 
singer over the next three years — "there was never a word 
about nuclear arming." There was a final meeting in late 1976, 

* Eilts, a career diplomat, retired in 1979 after spending six years as ambassador to 
Egypt to become director of the Center for International Relations at Boston Univer- 


at the end of the Ford administration — and the end of Kis- 
singer's tenure as secretary of state — and Kissinger brought up 
the 1973 war again. "And then, in a sort of casual reference," 
Eilts said, "Henry threw in that there was concern that the 
Israelis might go nuclear. There had been intimations that if 
they didn't get military equipment, and quickly, they might go 
nuclear." Eilts recalled his surprise that "none of this had come 
out earlier." He also was surprised at the casualness of Kis- 
singer's attitude: "It was just sort of a passing comment." 

Kissinger was far less casual at the time he learned of Israel's 
intention. He told none of his colleagues in the cabinet about 
the nuclear threat, of course, but changed his mind overnight 
about the need to get military arms — in huge quantities — to 
Israel. "Israel's [ammunition] consumption rate was gauged for 
a seven-day war," recalled James Schlesinger — a reflection of 
Washington's confidence in the fighting ability of Israel's army 
and air force. "But Kissinger just turned around totally. He got 
a little hysterical" in urging an immediate and massive resup- 
ply. "Henry seemed to be more concerned than I was over the 
possibility of a nuclear exchange" in the Middle East, Schle- 
singer added. Kissinger's actions led some senior officials to 
conclude that Israeli use of a nuclear weapon was not out of the 
question. "From where we sat," Schlesinger said, "there was an 
assumption that Israel had a few nukes and that if there was a 
collapse, there was a possibility that Israel would use them." 
William E. Colby, then director of the CIA, shared the assump- 
tion: "We were afraid Israel might go for broke." It was be- 
lieved, Colby added, that nuclear weapons would be used "only 
in an extreme situation." 

Kissinger referred to the Israeli nuclear threat in his first 
extended private meeting in Cairo on November 7, 1973, with 
Egyptian President Anwar Sadat; it was a precursor of Kis- 
singer's famed Middle East shuttle diplomacy that would begin 
the next year.* Sadat later briefed Mohammed Heikal about the 

* During a tense moment in the shuttle diplomacy, Kissinger, in Israel, suddenly 
declared to Golda Meir, according to an American eyewitness: "First, I am an Ameri- 
can; second, I am the secretary of state of the United States of America; third, I am a 
Jew." Meir replied without missing a beat: "That's all right, sonny, we read from right 
to left." 


off-the-record meeting and, according to Heikal, told of a se- 
nior "American" — it could only have been Kissinger — who ex- 
plained the sudden American airlift to Israel as a decision 
aimed at avoiding a nuclear escalation. Sadat further quoted 
Kissinger as saying, "It was serious, more serious than you can 
imagine." Israel had at least three warheads and was preparing 
to use them, Sadat told Heikal. (Kissinger apparently was rely- 
ing on Carl Duckett's 1968 CIA estimate of Israeli warheads — 
the only U.S. government estimate in existence in 1973 — that, 
had placed the number of warheads at three or four.) The 
Egyptian president, faithful to his promise of confidentiality to 
Kissinger, never explicitly told Heikal where his information 
came from, but Heikal had no doubt at the time or later: "The 
only American with that kind of credibility, who would make 
Sadat believe him [about the Israeli threat], was Henry Kis- 
singer." Heikal subsequently wrote about the Kissinger com- 
ment, without indicating that Sadat had been his source, in Al- 
Ahram, saying that the Nixon administration had feared during 
the fighting that the Israelis "might lose their nerve and use 
one of the three bombs they had in order to repel the Arab 

Sometime in this period, the American intelligence community 
got what apparently was its first look, via the KH-11, at the 
completed and operational missile launchers hidden in the side 
of a hill at Hirbat Zachariah. The launchers were left in the 
open, perhaps deliberately, making it much easier for Ameri- 
can photo interpreters to spot them. (The Soviets also had satel- 
lite coverage in the Middle East, and presumably saw the same 
missile field.) One U.S. official also recalled seeing hollowed- 
out nuclear storage bunkers and huge blast doors, with railroad 
tracks leading to a nearby mobile launching site. 

By mid-October, the Israeli military had successfully counter- 
attacked in the Golan Heights and the Sinai, ending any imme- 
diate threat — and the necessity for the nuclear alert. The 
weapons were removed from their forward positions by Octo- 
ber 14. The Egyptians, however, bolstered by a renewed airlift 
of Soviet arms that began on October 10, mounted a second 


offensive in the Sinai, which eventually was offset by a brilliant 
Israeli strike across the Suez Canal through a gap in the Egyp- 
tian lines. 

With Egypt suddenly on the defensive, Soviet Premier 
Alexei N. Kosygin flew to Cairo on October 16 and persuaded 
Sadat to call for a cease-fire. Kissinger flew to Moscow on Octo- 
ber 20 and to Tel Aviv two days later, where he received Israeli 
acquiesence for a cease-fire in place. In the meantime, the 
Egyptian Third Army was in danger of being surrounded and 
left essentially to the mercy of the Israeli Defense Force. The 
Israelis continued their offensive in Egyptian territory, moving 
north and west to a point within sixty miles of Cairo. The 
continued encirclement of the Third Army led Soviet party 
leader Leonid Brezhnev to increase the alert status of his air- 
borne divisions and warn the White House that unless Israel 
stopped violating the cease-fire, "we should be faced with the 
necessity urgently to consider the question of taking appropri- 
ate steps unilaterally." The implication seemed to be that 
Brezhnev would send some of his troops as a blocking force 
behind the front lines in Egypt to prevent the Israelis from 
going on to Cairo. 

The perceived threat came a few days after Nixon, more 
deeply embattled than ever over the Watergate scandals, had 
publicly fired Archibald Cox, the special Watergate prosecutor, 
and accepted the resignation of Attorney General Elliot L. 
Richardson and William D. Ruckelshaus, Richardson's deputy, 
in what became known as the "Saturday Night Massacre." The 
President earlier had been rocked by the indictment on corrup- 
tion charges and subsequent resignation of Vice President 
Spiro T. Agnew. Another complication was the publicly an- 
nounced Arab boycott of oil sales to the United States and the 
Arab decision to increase crude oil prices dramatically. 

There is no evidence that the Soviets did, in fact, contem- 
plate any significant deployment of their airborne troops, de- 
spite their high alert status. Most scholars now agree that 
Brezhnev's warning to the White House was aimed at forcing 
Washington to urge the Israelis to adhere to the cease-fire. Kis- 
singer did pressure the Israelis (there is no evidence that 
Nixon, consumed by Watergate, played any significant role in 


the issue) on the cease-fire, but at the same time he ordered the 
82nd Airborne Division and the nuclear-armed B-52S of the 
Strategic Air Command to go on alert. The aircraft carrier John 
R Kennedy also was dispatched to the Mediterranean, and at 
least fifty B-52S were redeployed from Guam to the United 
States. The nation, still reeling from the continuing Watergate 
revelations, was stunned — and distressed — by the White 
House's unilateral action; there was widespread belief that the 
alert had been ordered primarily for domestic political pur- 
poses and not because the Soviets were ready to move into the 
Middle East.* 

Israel responded to the American alert by going on nuclear 
alert for a second time in the Yom Kippur War, according to 
Yuval Neeman, the physicist and nuclear expert who served in 
later Israeli governments as minister of science and technology. 

This time, the crisis resolved itself quickly, as Golda Meir 
ordered her army to stop all offensive action against Egypt, 
permitting a United Nations peacekeeping force to impose the 
cease-fire. At this point, however, a small undercover U.S. 
Navy intelligence unit, known as Task Force 157, operating in 
the waters of the Bosporus off Turkey, relayed data to Washing- 
ton suggesting that one of the Soviet ships leaving the Black 
Sea en route to the Mediterranean was carrying radioactive 
material. The report from the Navy swept through the Ameri- 
can intelligence community and the White House. Over the 
next few days, as the Soviets and many in Congress and the 
American media accused Nixon and Kissinger of overreacting, 

* Many of Kissinger's senior aides and others in the government, including William 
Colby, defended the alert. Colby recalled that there had been a steady stream of intelli- 
gence reports suggesting that the Soviet Union was preparing some of its most highly 
trained paratroop units and its transport fleet for deployment to the Middle East. On 
the night of the alert, he said, the American intelligence community "lost the transport 
fleet. We were afraid it'd gone" to the Middle East with Soviet paratroopers. Another 
senior NSC aide confirmed Colby's account and added: "I thought they were coming" 
— a point of view, he added, that he successfully urged on Kissinger. The NSC aide 
added that neither he nor Kissinger anticipated that word of the heightened alert 
would become known so quickly. "We weren't trying to signal the Soviets," the aide 
said. "We just didn't realize that the military would begin calling back privates and 
corporals from leave" — making it impossible to keep the alert secret from the press. 
Another equally senior American official, who had access to all of the available intelli- 
gence, viewed the actions of both Washington and Moscow simply as "posturing. We 
were publicly threatening to go [into the Sinai] ourselves and the Soviets were coun- 


descriptions of the Soviet threat, including dramatic details of 
its shipment of nuclear warheads into Egypt, began appearing 
in the press. 

The most complete account of the alleged Soviet escalation, 
as seen from the White House, was published in Kissinger, a 1974 
biography written by Marvin and Bernard Kalb, then corre- 
spondents for CBS. Kissinger, the main source for the book, 
was said on the morning after the alert to have been informed 
by the CIA of u an alarming report from Egypt — that the Rus- 
sians might have landed nuclear weapons there." American in- 
telligence, the Kalbs wrote, "had kept track of a Soviet ship 
carrying radioactive material and heading toward Port Said." 
It was presumed, the authors wrote, that several Soviet nuclear 
warheads had been provided to Egypt for deployment in Scud 
missiles. "The report tended to harden Kissinger's judgment 
that the Russians were going to send airborne troops to 
Egypt," the Kalbs added. "Nuclear weapons could serve as 
backup protection for a sizable Soviet force. On the other hand, 
Kissinger could not dismiss the possibility that the Russians 
were moving nuclear weapons into Egypt because they be- 
lieved that the Israelis had nuclear weapons and intended to 
use them against Egypt." 

The only flaw in the Kissinger account, as told to the Kalbs, 
is that it was not true. In fact, the Task Force 157 report had 
been discounted almost immediately by the intelligence com- 
munity. One high-ranking American officer, who was in 
charge of a major intelligence agency at the time, said that 
reconnaissance had established that the Soviets had loaded nu- 
clear warheads on a cargo ship in a Black Sea port — but never 
shipped them. "A different ship goes through," the officer ex- 
plained, "and dumb little 157 flashes a message" that Soviet war- 
heads were heading for the Mediterranean, and possibly Egypt. 
"Everybody in the United States goes crazy, but it turns out to 
be a totally false reading. It was a different ship" that moved 
into the Black Sea. There was a direct approach to Soviet offi- 
cials: "The Soviets said, 'We didn't send anything out.' " The 
intelligence community concluded that there was no evidence 
of a Soviet attempt to bring nuclear warheads into the battle 


zone.* The evidence that did exist, in fact, as was not reported 
at the time, or cited later by Kissinger in his memoirs, demon- 
strated that the Soviets had ordered their destroyers and other 
vessels in the Middle East to steam to the nearest ports and off- 
load their nuclear weapons. There was a consensus among se- 
nior intelligence officials in the Pentagon, recalled Patrick J. 
Parker, then the deputy assistant secretary of defense for intel- 
ligence, that "[t]he Soviets were understandably frightened of 
the situation and eager to contain it." 

Kissinger also made no mention of the alleged Soviet war- 
head shipment in the second volume of his memoirs, nor has he 
— or any American official — revealed that Israel issued two nu- 
clear alerts during the crisis. He did emerge, however, from the 
October crisis with renewed official concern about Dimona. 
Some weeks afterward, Kissinger asked the CIA for a formal 
National Intelligence Estimate on the Israeli nuclear program; 
the paper, which concluded that Israel had at least ten nuclear 
warheads, took Carl Duckett's Office of Science and Technol- 
ogy months to prepare and then was submitted only to the 
White House.** 

The Israeli government concluded by the end of the war that 
the American intelligence community had somehow learned — 

* A former member of Task Force 157 acknowledged that there was no way that the 
unit on duty in Turkey, whose function was to photograph and monitor all Soviet ship 
deployments from the Black Sea, could independently establish the bona fides of its 
reports. The unit, he explained, was manned by specially recruited Turkish citizens 
who were not competent to make on-the-spot assessments, but instead relayed their 
tapes and other data by commercial aircraft to Washington for analysis. The conclusion 
that there were warheads aboard the Soviet cargo ship came from a Navy laboratory in 
Washington, the former 157 member said, and not from Turkey. "We never had any 
knowledge at all [in the field] whether anything was hot or not," he added. 

** Another as yet unresolved question about the Yom Kippur War revolves around 
the question of nuclear deterrence: did Egypt and Syria limit their initial operations in 
fear of a nuclear response if they penetrated too deeply? Mohammed Heikal, for exam- 
ple, insisted that the Soviet reports about the Israeli nuclear arming — while taken very 
seriously — had no impact on the overall Egyptian military operation. Egypt's military 
goals, he said, had been sharply limited from the outset. There is clear evidence that 
Syria also set very limited goals for its military, for its army came to a literal stop — 
with no opposition in front of it — more than a day before Golda Meir's kitchen cabinet 
met in Tel Aviv to authorize the nuclear arming. The best guess at this point is that 
Syrian and Egyptian planners certainly were aware that any deep penetration inside 
the pre-1967 borders would have occasioned a massive, and perhaps nuclear, counterat- 
tack — but the fact that no such advance was planned or sought had much more to do 
with the myth of Israeli military invincibility than with a specific concern about the 
weapons at Dimona. 


independently of what the Soviets or Ambassador Dinitz had 
revealed — of the arming of the Israeli warheads. "Somehow, 
and this I know for sure," a former member of Golda Meir's 
personal staff said, "the Americans found out about it and Mos- 
sad did an investigation as to how the U.S. found out. Golda 
asked Mossad to investigate how much damage it caused." 
There was another aspect to the inquiry, the Israeli added, 
based on Israel's understanding that American intelligence had 
discovered Soviet warheads being moved through the Black 
Sea: "Was there a threat? How much did they [the United 
States] tell us? What did the U.S. know and when did they tell 

The results of the Mossad inquiry could not be learned, but 
Golda Meir's concern about America's ability to penetrate 
Israel seemed to diminish as Kissinger's shuttle diplomacy got 
under way. There was one tantalizing public reference, how- 
ever, published with little fanfare seven years later, suggesting 
that the United States had known independently of the nuclear 
alert as it took place. On March 10, 1980, journalist Jack Ander- 
son's syndicated daily column — largely about the American oil 
industry's influence inside the Department of Energy — in- 
cluded a four-paragraph addendum entitled "Close Call." The 
filler item said in part: "Locked in secret Pentagon files is star- 
tling evidence that Israel maneuvered dangerously near the 
edge of nuclear war after the 1973 Arab assault. The secret doc- 
uments claim that Israel came within hours of running out of 
essential arms. 'At this crucial moment, the possibility of nu- 
clear arms was discussed with the U.S.,' declares one report. 
American authorities feared the Israelis might resort to nuclear 
weapons to assure their survival. This was the most compelling 
reason, according to the secret papers, that the United States 
rushed conventional weapons to Israel." 

Further evidence of the Israeli willingness to use nuclear weap- 
ons in the 1973 war — or to threaten their use — was provided at a 
meeting early the next year between David Elazar and Lieuten- 
ant General Orwin C. Talbott, deputy commander of the U.S. 
Army's Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC). Talbott 
was on an extended visit to Israel to discuss some of the lessons 


learned in the 1973 war an d to inspect captured Arab and Soviet 
military equipment; there was considerable contact with 
Elazar, still the Israeli chief of staff. At one meeting, Talbott 
recalled, Elazar suddenly began talking "out of the blue" about 
Israel's threat to use nuclear weapons in the desperate mo- 
ments of the 1973 war: "My impression at the time was that he 
was trying through me to let Washington know how serious 
the situation was — approaching the point where they were 
ready to use them [nuclear weapons]." Talbott understood the 
significance of the information and quickly filed a top-secret 
one-page memorandum for General Creighton W. Abrams, the 
Army chief of staff. "I made no copies of it and gave it to 
nobody else," the general, now retired, said. "I figured this was 
not discussable information at that time. I assumed Dado was 
trying to get a message to us."* 

General Talbott had done his part, but his report to Creigh- 
ton Abrams went nowhere. Carl Duckett, who at the time had 
direct responsibility for the CIA's intelligence on the Israeli 
nuclear arsenal, first learned of the Talbott message from the 
author; he also said he had never been informed of any intelli- 
gence suggesting that Israel had gone on two nuclear alerts 
during the Yom Kippur War. 

The disconnect when it came to a nuclear-armed Israel was 
near-total: a CIA official assigned to Israel also had direct 
knowledge of the nuclear alert and did not tell his superiors 
what he knew, just as Henry Kissinger had told no one. The 
CIA official was an expert in communications intelligence and 
spent three years in Israel in the early 1970s as an undercover 
liaison officer with Detachment 8200; one of his assignments 
was to help the Israelis monitor the sophisticated Soviet radar 
and communications gear that had been supplied to the Egyp- 
tians during the War of Attrition. Israel also was operating, 
with the aid of equipment leased from the National Security 
Agency, at least three supersecret listening posts capable of 

* Talbott was accompanied during the meeting with Elazar by Colonel Bruce Wil- 
liams, the U.S. Army attache in Israel. Williams similarly remembered Elazar's re- 
marks as revelatory: "I can't recall the exact words," he said, "but the message was 
clear: Israel was prepared to use nuclear weapons against the Syrians if they'd broken 


intercepting communications throughout the Middle East and 
as far north as southern Russia.* The intercepted intelligence 
was shared with the United States, and the American under- 
cover operative was able to learn a great deal about the opera- 
tions of the Israeli signals intelligence community. 

After the war, the official prepared a highly classified report 
on some of the Israeli deception techniques that had been suc- 
cessfully used for, among other things, relaying bogus orders to 
Egyptian and Syrian forces. "I wrote a small report for Jessup" 
— Peter Jessup had returned for a second tour as CIA station 
chief in the early 1970s — "but I knew the Israelis would pick it 
up out of Washington if it was filed. So I was very careful in 
what I said. I did not mention that the conversations [with his 
Israeli counterparts] got to nuclear threats. I knew that the 
weapons available were something to be reckoned with, and 
they [the Israelis] told me that this had been communicated to 
the Egyptians. They said, 'We've developed this method of 
communication with each other.' " 

The CIA official was rotated back to Washington after the 
1973 war and was summoned by James Angleton, the counter- 
intelligence head, who was still handling Israeli affairs. An- 
gleton had seen his report on Israeli deception techniques and 
wanted a special debriefing. It was a bizarre experience, the 
CIA official recalled: "I went through two days of debriefing by 
one of Angleton's guys with Angleton sitting outside the room 
at a secretary's desk." It was clear that the room was wired so 
that Angleton could monitor the conversation. The aide would 
occasionally leave the room to check a fact or line of query with 
Angleton, who never made an appearance, and whose presence 
was limited to an occasional scraping of his chair. 

"I did not talk about the nuclear issue," the CIA official ac- 
knowledged. "And I did not put it into any messages. I felt it 
was something that other people knew about — and nobody 
wanted to hear it from me." 

* One of the joint sites, at Mount Hermon in the Golan Heights, was overrun by 
Syria in the first day of the war. Within fifteen minutes, according to former Israeli 
intelligence officers, Soviet helicopters had arrived and began dismantling the equip- 
ment. It was a stunning loss: there were as many as seven underground levels full of 
most sensitive listening and recording gear — all of which ended up in Soviet posses- 
sion. Israel reclaimed the destroyed facility by war's end. 


The Israeli and American governments returned to the pol- 
icy of see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil. In June 1974, 
however, Anwar Sadat announced that his country had ob- 
tained intelligence indicating that Israel had developed tactical 
nuclear weapons. A week later, Shimon Peres, defense minister 
in a new Israeli government headed by Yitzhak Rabin, categor- 
ically denied the existence of any such weapons and accused 
Sadat of "gathering information of his own making." The 
squabble between the two countries was treated perfunctorily 
by the press and provoked no concern from President Gerald 
R. Ford or his senior aides. A National Security Council official 
did broach the issue, very gently, with an Israeli diplomat over 
lunch more than a year later. "I told him I thought my people 
had the perception that Israel had nuclear weapons," the aide 
reported in a subsequent internal memorandum. The Israeli 
diplomat denied the existence of any Israeli bomb and seemed 
to be "visibly disturbed. . . . He was not pleased with the 
course of the conversation, and switched the subject to music 
and the arts, where it remained." 

Carl Duckett made a career-ending mistake in March 1976: he 
talked openly about Israel's nuclear weapons. On March 11, 
1976, Duckett was one of a group of CIA officials who partici- 
pated in an informal seminar before a group of local members 
of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics. 
Such sessions, held at an auditorium near the CIA's main head- 
quarters building at McLean, Virginia, were standard Wash- 
ington fare; any remarks were understood to be limited to 
unclassified materials. During a question-and-answer session, 
Duckett was asked about Israel's nuclear capability and replied 
without hesitation that Israel was estimated to have ten to 
twenty nuclear weapons "available for use." Within days, an 
account of his remarks was published in the Washington Post, 
forcing George Bush, the newly installed CIA director, to issue 
a public statement assuming "full responsibility" for the disclo- 
sure of the secret information. The obviously angry Bush 
added that he was "determined it will not happen again." 
Duckett was rumored to have been drinking at the time of his 
appearance — the assumption seemed to be that only someone 


drunk would be so reckless as to discuss Israel's nuclear weap- 
onry in public — and his subsequent request for retirement was 
accepted by Bush. 

Duckett, discussing those events years later, acknowledged 
that the rumors of his heavy drinking "led to a discussion with 
Bush and my decision to leave." The real issue, however, he 
insisted, was not his drinking but Bush's unwillingness to pro- 
mote him to deputy CIA director. 

There was one enduring legacy: the CIA would continue to 
know very little about the Israeli nuclear arsenal. Duckett's 
1974 estimate giving Israel ten to twenty nuclear weapons 
would remain the official American intelligence estimate until 
the early 1980s — years in which Israel was exponentially in- 
creasing its nuclear warhead stockpile. Duckett acknowledged 
that there was no specific intelligence behind the estimate. "We 
were trying to think what their targets would be," he ex- 
plained, and using that information to predict the number of 
warheads that would be manufactured. "We were speculating," 
he said of his staff. "Our guess was that the Israelis would not 
have a reason for building more bombs [than ten to twenty] — 
and that's why our numbers stayed fairly fixed. It was based on 
very little." 



Carl Duckett's top-secret CIA estimate in 1968 that 
Israel had three or four nuclear bombs was primarily based on 
his conviction that an American Jew named Zalman Shapiro 
had smuggled more than two hundred pounds of enriched ura- 
nium into Israel — enough for four bombs. The alleged smug- 
gled uranium also was a major factor in Duckett's second 
estimate, in 1974, that credited Israel with at least ten bombs; it 
was based on the amount of uranium he believed Shapiro had 
diverted plus a guess that the technicians at Dimona could have 
chemically separated enough plutonium from the reactor to 
have produced six weapons or more since 1970. Just how Israel 
would accomplish that feat without a chemical reprocessing 
plant — the CIA still had no proof that such a plant existed in 
Israel — was not clear, but what was clear was Shapiro's culpa- 
bility. To Duckett and his colleagues, especially Richard 
Helms, the case against Shapiro was unassailable. 

In the CIA's view, Shapiro was more than just a Jew who 
supported Israel; he was a Jew in the nuclear-fuel-processing 
business who traveled regularly to Israel and was a partner 
with the Israeli government in some business ventures. He fit 
the dual-loyalty stereotype in many other ways: he was the 
high-achieving son of an Orthodox rabbi who emigrated from 
Lithuania; he was valedictorian of his high school class in Pas- 
saic, New Jersey, before attending Johns Hopkins University; 
he got a master's degree while going to night school; and — with 
the aid of a fellowship from Standard Oil of Indiana — he 
earned his doctorate in chemistry in 1948, at the age of twenty- 
eight. Shapiro, with his brilliance and capacity for hard work, 
was among the first scientists — and most certainly one of the 


first Jews — to be hired to develop submarine reactors for a 
newly established laboratory operated by the Westinghouse 
Electric Corporation for the U.S. Navy. 

As his career progressed, Shapiro — who underwent rigorous 
national security checks while at Westinghouse — made no se- 
cret of his strong commitment to Israel; some of his family had 
been victims of the Nazis, and he believed in the need for an 
independent Jewish state. He became an active member of the 
Zionist Organization of America and also generously sup- 
ported the American Technion Society, which raises funds and 
provides equipment to the Technion-Israel Institute of Tech- 
nology in Haifa, Israel's most advanced school of science and 

In 1957, he organized a publicly owned nuclear fuel process- 
ing firm, with at least twenty-five stockholders, in an aban- 
doned World War II steel plant in Apollo, Pennsylvania, 
twenty-five miles northeast of Pittsburgh. The firm, known as 
the Nuclear Materials and Equipment Corporation (NUMEC), 
was a small company in a nuclear-fuel-processing world that 
was dominated by Fortune 500 firms; there was a constant 
struggle to get contracts. Shapiro was aggressive in the pursuit 
of work for his young company, and by the early 1960s 
NUMEC was providing nuclear services for at least nine for- 
eign countries. There was a steady stream of foreign visitors to 
the factory, many at the instigation of the Department of Com- 
merce and the State Department, which were eager to show off 
the government's Atoms for Peace effort. There were at least 
three foreign employees at NUMEC, including an Israeli met- 
allurgist assigned to unclassified breeder reactor fuel research. 
There also was constant back-and-forth in those years between 
AEC security officials and NUMEC over the handling of classi- 
fied materials, and the company was required to improve its 

In 1965, after years of internal audits and reviews, an AEC 
inspection team determined that more than two hundred 
pounds of enriched uranium that had been supplied by West- 
inghouse and the Navy to NUMEC for processing and fabrica- 
tion could not be accounted for; eventually the Joint Atomic 


Energy Committee — as well as the CIA — came to suspect that 
Shapiro had diverted the uranium to Israel. 

Shapiro would be hounded by those suspicions for the next 
twenty-five years — although the most significant evidence 
against him seemed to be his Jewishness and the fact that one of 
the major investors in NUMEC shared his support for Israel. A 
number of experienced investigators from the government and 
the Congress, as well as dozens of journalists, assumed that 
Shapiro's emotional tie to Israel was enough of a motive for 
him to commit nuclear espionage, a crime punishable by death 
under the Atomic Energy Act. 

Despite more than ten years of intensive investigation in- 
volving active FBI surveillance, however, no significant evi- 
dence proving that Shapiro had diverted any uranium from his 
plant was ever found. Nonetheless, he remained guilty in the 
minds of many in the government and the press; reporters in- 
variably included an account of Shapiro's ties to Israel and the 
alleged NUMEC diversion in any story about the development 
of nuclear arms in Israel. Some of the newspaper and book 
accounts did note that the charges against Shapiro were never 
proved; many others simply declared that it was the Shapiro 
uranium that gave Israel the nuclear bomb. 

Zalman Shapiro did not divert uranium from his processing 
plant to Israel, but there is little solace for the nuclear industry 
in that fact: the missing uranium was not stolen at all — it ended 
up in the air and water of the city of Apollo as well as in the 
ducts, tubes, and floors of the NUMEC plant. There is little 
solace, too, for the American intelligence community in 
Shapiro's noninvolvement with nuclear diversion, for it failed 
to learn of Shapiro's close ties to Ernst David Bergmann and 
Binyamin Blumberg and the sensitive — and legitimate — mis- 
sion he did conduct for his beloved Israel. 

Shapiro's business was not a pretty one: many of NUMEC's 
contracts involved the chemical isolation and recovery of en- 
riched uranium from the dirt and scrap generated in 
fabricating nuclear fuel. The scrap was chemically treated — 
sometimes two or three times — in an attempt to isolate the 
salvageable uranium. The process inherently generated some 


loss; small amounts of enriched uranium were constantly being 
flushed out in waste water or lodged in scrub brushes, air 
vents, filtration systems, cleaning pads, and air masks. It was 
the kind of work NUMEC's larger and more solidly financed 
competitors did not want. Other NUMEC contracts involved 
cleaner work, such the conversion of highly enriched uranium 
(93 percent U-235) from gaseous uranium hexafluoride — the 
form in which it was shipped from the government's huge ura- 
nium diffusion plants — into uranium oxide powder capable of 
being fabricated into nuclear fuel for Navy reactors. That pro- 
cess, too, created waste — as much as 10 to 15 percent of the ura- 
nium eventually ended up as scrap and needed to be recovered. 
Since working with weapons-grade material was exceedingly 
dangerous, NUMEC had to divide the uranium being pro- 
cessed into small lots — creating more opportunity for waste — 
to guard against the horrible possibility of setting off a chain 
reaction. Under the stringent AEC rules governing the 
reprocessing of weapons-grade uranium and plutonium, 
Shapiro's firm was responsible and had to pay enormous penal- 
ties for any enriched materials that could not be accounted for 
— as much as $10 a gram; each missing pound thus meant a loss 
of more than $4,500. 

The term MUF, for "material unaccounted for," became a 
common one in the nuclear processing industry. Making the 
contractors pay for missing materials also was the backbone of 
the AEC's safeguards program; the assumption was that no 
reprocessing firm would divert or steal uranium if it resulted in 
a stiff fine. 

The AEC eventually worked out complicated rules for ac- 
counting for MUF that enabled private firms such as NUMEC 
to estimate in their regular reports how much missing but ac- 
countable uranium was believed to be in a plant's air filtration 
system or buried in its waste pits. NUMEC would routinely 
report seemingly huge losses of enriched materials on any 
given contract — thirty or forty pounds was not unusual — and 
then estimate that 80 percent or more of the lost materials 
would be recovered upon cleanup. The AEC accepted such es- 
timates as realistic, and deferred the assessments of any penal- 


The fact that nuclear waste was considered an inevitable by- 
product of the business, just as sawmills produce sawdust, was 
not really a secret — it was just one of those facts that the public 
did not need to know, and especially so as the nation became 
increasingly sensitized to the environmental costs of the nu- 
clear industry. The enriched materials handled by the workers 
at NUMEC were not "hot," as commonly understood, for they 
had not yet been irradiated in a reactor and thus did not emit 
penetrating and lethal radiation. The danger facing the 
NUMEC employees came from breathing in or otherwise in- 
gesting uranium, which, like all heavy metals, accumulates in 
bones, where it eventually impacts on bone marrow, causing 
leukemia. Enriched uranium, if breathed into the lungs, also 
could trigger lung cancer, and the NUMEC employees were 
constantly urged to wear face masks, although many refused to 
do so in the summer. 

Zalman Shapiro's career-destroying problems began in 1962, 
when he was the low bidder for two complicated Westinghouse 
contracts, involving the processing of more than 2,500 pounds 
of enriched uranium. NUMEC was assured by Westinghouse 
that 60 percent or more of each hundred kilograms of uranium 
could successfully be processed — meaning that as much as 40 
percent of the uranium would be scrap, to be separately recov- 
ered. In fact, NUMEC found that the process was far more 
difficult than Westinghouse had claimed for one of the con- 
tracts, and resulted in only a 35 percent yield of acceptable 
product. Nearly two thirds of the Westinghouse-supplied ura- 
nium ended up as scrap, much of it — so Shapiro and his associ- 
ates thought — eventually buried in barrels, along with 
contaminated rags and other cleaning equipment, in two huge 
waste pits on the NUMEC grounds. The pits included contam- 
inated waste not only from the Westinghouse contract but from 
other processing jobs for private companies; Shapiro had not 
isolated the scrap from each of his contracts, as the AEC de- 
manded. AEC investigators subsequently became convinced 
that Shapiro had deliberately commingled the scrap from dif- 
ferent contracts as a money-saving bookkeeping measure. Sha- 
piro also angered the AEC by his reluctance — again for 
pocketbook reasons — to begin the time-consuming job of 


reprocessing the scrap to extract the missing uranium; he in- 
stead kept his employees at work on new processing contracts, 
for which there would be immediate payment. Stalling the 
AEC inspection teams, which were demanding that the miss- 
ing uranium be accounted for, one way or another, became a 
way of life at NUMEC. 

The AEC tried to resolve the complicated mess in a series of 
extensive negotiations in 1964 and 1965, with Shapiro constantly 
citing NUMEC's precarious financial condition to justify his 
actions. Portions of the 1963 waste pit eventually were dug up, 
and AEC inspectors found that the amount of enriched ura- 
nium buried there was not nearly enough to match the huge 
losses. The inspectors concluded that there was a MUF of 93.8 
kilograms (206 pounds) of enriched uranium; they also told 
headquarters that because of NUMEC's "inadequate and in- 
complete accounting records," a diversion could not be ruled 
out, although there was "no evidence" that a diversion had 
taken place. The issue was aired at a special meeting in Febru- 
ary 1966 of the AEC commissioners and senior staff, and, ac- 
cording to a declassified transcript of that meeting, the 
commissioners agreed that NUMEC's employees be inter- 
viewed to find out what had happened. It was further agreed 
that a trip would have to be taken to Capitol Hill to inform the 
Joint Atomic Energy Committee of the loss. 

The report to Congress was a bombshell. The American nu- 
clear community already had been rocked in October 1964 
upon learning that China's first nuclear bomb had been trig- 
gered by uranium, and not plutonium, as the CIA and other 
intelligence agencies had widely anticipated. There was imme- 
diate suspicion that China had somehow bought on the black 
market — or stolen — the enriched uranium for its bomb (the 
CIA would not learn for another year or so that China had 
completed a huge diffusion plant much earlier than expected). 
A special study into AEC safeguards was commissioned, and it 
questioned the commission's heavy reliance on financial penal- 
ties as a sufficient bar against nuclear diversion. The Joint 
Committee's report noted that the AEC's position seemed to be 


that all of its responsibility "had been fulfilled ... as long as 
material was paid for." 

The AEC, sensitive to the diversion issue, had referred the 
NUMEC losses to the FBI in October 1965, but the FBI saw no 
basis for an investigation; its senior counterintelligence officials 
concluded, according to declassified documents, that "this situ- 
ation up to now has been rightfully treated by AEC as an ad- 
ministration matter and there appears to be no basis for us to 
take any action. . . ." An AEC inspection team eventually in- 
terviewed more than 120 employees at NUMEC. No evidence 
of a diversion was established. 

The CIA, nonetheless, found Shapiro's long-standing ties to 
Israel to be of continuing interest. Shapiro was a frequent visi- 
tor to Israel, and Israelis were among the many foreign visitors 
who had registered for tours of NUMEC. Shapiro also was a 
partner with the Israeli government in a business involving the 
pasteurization of food and the sterilization of medical supplies 
by irradiation; packages to and from NUMEC were being 
shipped out of and into Israel. By late 1966, although reports of 
Israel's progress in nuclear weaponry began to flow from the 
American embassy in Tel Aviv, John Hadden, the CIA station 
chief, was still unable to find proof that Israel had a chemical 
reprocessing plant at Dimona. And without such a plant, Israel 
would have needed an independent source of enriched ura- 
nium or plutonium to manufacture the bombs that, so Had- 
den's informants told him, existed. 

Duckett and Helms shared Hadden's view that Shapiro had 
to have been the source for the Israeli progress in nuclear 
weaponry; the two men would spend the next few years push- 
ing their suspicions on anybody — including Presidents John- 
son and Nixon — who would listen. They were mesmerized by 
Shapiro's links to Israel and the fact that one of the initial 
stockholders in NUMEC, David Lowenthal, had helped bring 
illegal immigrants into Israel before 1948. Duckett even came to 
believe, as he later told congressional investigators, that 
NUMEC had been set up in 1957 by Shapiro as part of a long- 
range Israeli intelligence scheme to divert uranium. Duckett 
and Helms were supported in most of their suspicions by 


George F. Murphy, assistant staff director of the Joint Atomic 
Energy Committee, who also was convinced that the two hun- 
dred pounds of enriched uranium could not simply have disap- 
peared into NUMEC's refuse pits and air ducts. Murphy, who 
had no technical understanding of the nuclear fuel cycle, found 
Shapiro's alleged sloppy bookkeeping, as reported by the AEC, 
to be preposterous: in his view, "Shapiro was the sharpest, 
hardest-headed businessman I've ever known." Murphy also 
was appalled by what he considered to be a lack of security at 
NUMEC and told a congressional investigator of seeing ura- 
nium pellets scattered "all over the benches" during a visit to 
the Apollo plant. The possibility of a diversion to Israel seemed 
solid, and Shapiro was put under FBI surveillance in the late 

Shapiro, meanwhile, in a desperate effort to save his com- 
pany, hired James E. Lovett, a senior AEC scientist, to take 
over nuclear materials accountability at NUMEC. One of 
Lovett's first acts was to insist that the concrete floor of the old 
plant be protected with stainless steel; concrete, Lovett knew, 
absorbed far more uranium than suspected. Shapiro and other 
company officials "were deluding themselves," Lovett recalled. 
"They honestly thought that if it came down to the end, they'd 
recover most" of the two hundred or more pounds of missing 
uranium in NUMEC's waste pits. But most of the uranium 
was not in the plant's waste pits; it was embedded in the con- 
crete floor, clinging to ventilation ducts, flushed out with other 
plant wastes into the local waterways, and scattered in the air. 

The continuing controversy over the alleged diversion be- 
came widely known inside the tight-knit nuclear community, 
and Shapiro suffered. "I was a smelly dead fish," he bitterly 
recalled. "Contracts were pulled away and given to others." In 
1967, Shapiro and his partners were forced to merge their inter- 
est in NUMEC into the Atlantic Richfield Company (ARCO); 
Shapiro, with his special Qjrlearance (for atomic energy mat- 
ters) still intact, continued to run the plant. 

Shapiro, as the CIA and AEC never learned, did have a secret 
life. He had met and befriended many of Israel's senior nuclear 
scientists on his visits there, and was especially devoted to 
Ernst David Bergmann, who was head of Israel's Atomic En- 


ergy Commission until 1966. "He was a genius," Shapiro said of 
Bergmann. "He was a genius's genius. He worked night and 
day. I don't know when he slept." Bergmann was especially 
interested in a nuclear-powered water desalinization plant, 
Shapiro said. 

Water, of course, was the most precious of commodities in 
Israel. In 1964, the country completed a 150-mile conduit, 
known as the National Water Carrier, to bring water from the 
north to the Negev. The system, then Israel's largest develop- 
ment project, linked local and regional water conduits to form 
an integrated network that sought to capture all of the nation's 
rainfall and channel it into reservoirs. The National Water Car- 
rier was not completed, however, without a series of disputes 
with Syria, especially over Israel's goal of bringing water south 
from Lake Kinneret in Galilee. There were huge stretches in 
northern Israel where water being moved to the south was in 
the open, protected only by fencing; the waterway was an obvi- 
ous target for terrorists. El Fatah, the Arab guerrilla group 
(and later an important member of the Palestine Liberation 
Organization), boasted that it would poison the water. At one 
point, Israeli security officials suspected that El Fatah had at- 
tempted to cut the fence protecting the water works in what 
was feared to be an effort to plant a bomb. 

It was at this point that Zalman Shapiro was asked by Israel 
to devise a rapid and accurate method of determining whether 
water had been contaminated with toxic materials. There was a 
second problem: as much as 30 percent of the water was disap- 
pearing while traveling to the south, and Israeli officials were 
unable to determine where and how the loss was taking place. 
Shapiro acknowledged, reluctantly, that he also advised on that 
issue, eventually recommending that a radioactive tracer be 
added to the water in Lake Kinneret to monitor the flow. He 
had decided not to discuss specifically all of his activities on 
behalf of Israel during the many government and congressional 
investigations into NUMEC, he said, because of the continued 
threat to the Israeli water supply: "I didn't want to put any 
ideas into people's minds." 

In the late 1960s, Shapiro convened a series of meetings — 
some in his home — of American scientists and Israelis to dis- 


cuss, he said, the issue of how to protect the National Water 
Carrier from potential terrorists. Some of the sessions, consid- 
ered prima facie suspect by Duckett and his colleagues, were 
monitored by the FBI. At the time, NUMEC was under con- 
tract to provide to Israel specialized small power sources, 
whose function Shapiro refused to spell out, other than to ac- 
knowledge that they were linked to the security of the water- 
ways. All of the items shipped were approved by the 
Commerce Department for export, he said. "We had permits 
for what we did. I never transmitted any documents to any- 
body," he insisted. "The meetings pertained only to the water 

Shapiro would not say whether he knew — as did many 
American scientists — of the work being done at Dimona. He 
did acknowledge an acquaintanceship with Binyamin Blum- 
berg, the director of Israel's Science Liaison Bureau: "I never 
said I didn't know him." But he denied revealing any American 
secrets or diverting any materials. "I worked my butt off to 
assure the security of this country — do you think for a moment 
I'd do anything to impair its security?" 

Duckett and Helms remained convinced that Shapiro was 
guilty of espionage. Duckett's conversation with Edward 
Teller and his early-1968 estimate of Israeli nuclear capacity led 
Helms to urge the FBI to renew its investigation into Shapiro's 
dealings with Israel. The FBI's J. Edgar Hoover was then in 
the midst of a bitter dispute with James Angleton's counter- 
intelligence shop over the CIA's handling of defectors, as well 
as the continuing — and illegal — CIA spying inside the United 
States under a presidential mandate to determine whether the 
anti-Vietnam War movement was being directed by Moscow. 
Hoover chose to spar with Helms over the Shapiro issue for the 
next year, according to a former congressional investigator 
who has reviewed the Senate and House intelligence commit- 
tees' files on Shapiro. "The CIA was saying to Hoover," the 
investigator recalled, " 'You're responsible for counterintel- 
ligence in America. Investigate Shapiro, and if he's a spy, catch 
him.' Hoover's answer was, 'We don't really know if any thing's 
been taken. Go to Israel and get inside Dimona, and if you find 


it [evidence of the Shapiro uranium], let us know.' It was kind 
of a game," the investigator added. "The memos were hysteri- 
cal — they went back and forth." 

The NUMEC file remained buried, with Shapiro again work- 
ing for Westinghouse, until 1975, when James H. Conran, an 
analyst in the Nuclear Regulation Commission (NRC), one of 
two new agencies that had been formed when the AEC was 
dissolved earlier in the year, was assigned to write a history of 
nuclear safeguards. He was denied access to the NUMEC file 
on grounds of security, and began a fervid campaign to get a 
briefing on NUMEC for the five NRC commissioners and their 
immediate staffs. He could not write his report, he said, unless 
he got that file. 

There was another significant issue at stake: the nuclear 
power industry was pushing hard to get public and govern- 
ment support for a huge plutonium recycling industry. It 
seemed as if the future of nuclear power now depended on 
public acceptance of fast breeder reactors capable of generating 
more plutonium fuel than they consumed. The public policy 
issue was obvious: how could the world's governments prevent 
the diversion of plutonium for military use? Bringing up the 
NUMEC issue once again created a very much unwanted di- 
lemma: either there had been a diversion, or the inherent loss 
of plutonium and uranium at processing facilities such as 
NUMEC — and there were many scattered across the nation — 
was far higher than publicly understood. 

The advocates of nuclear power, who included many in the 
NRC, shuddered at the prospect of more adverse publicity 
about nuclear reactor safety and possible widespread contami- 
nation. Antinuclear groups were being organized around the 
world and had begun large, and sometimes violent, demonstra- 
tions in an effort to halt nuclear power. 

Conran's insistence on determining what had happened to 
the missing uranium at NUMEC won him few friends, there- 
fore, inside the NRC. A high-level briefing by Carl Duckett 
was arranged to discuss the possibility of a diversion. Victor 
Gilinsky, then an NRC commissioner, recalled Duckett's pre- 
sentation as matter-of-fact: "Basically, Duckett was asked 


[about an Israeli bomb] and said the CIA thought Israel had 
nuclear weapons and the Agency thought there was a diver- 
sion. He didn't say anything that would convince you that was 
the case — but the issue from our point, our little world, is that 
he said what he did. We [the NRC commissioners] did not have 
responsibility for dealing with the Israelis — we take what other 
agencies think as a starting point." Gilinsky's contention was 
that the NRC had no obligation to determine whether Duck- 
ett' s assertions were correct, but it agreed on the basis of what 
Duckett said to tighten up procedures for dealing with nuclear 
materials. Most of those at the Duckett briefing "were not in- 
volved in foreign affairs," Gilinsky noted. "They were protect- 
ing the notion that the NRC's procedures were adequate to 
protect plutonium. It was a threat to our claims that you could 
protect the stuff." 

Duckett's briefing to the NRC and his subsequent informal 
talk at the CIA before the American Institute of Aeronautics 
and Astronautics Association, while ruinous to his career, did 
provoke another brief flurry of concern over NUMEC at the 
Ford White House — yet another investigation of Shapiro was 
initiated. Once again, however, the FBI could find no evidence 
of a diversion. 

There was independent evidence, moreover, demonstrating 
that Shapiro's problems in operating NUMEC were not as ex- 
ceptional as the AEC had publicly indicated in the mid-1960s. A 
continuing NRC investigation of the plant, which had been 
taken over in the early 1970s by Babcock & Wilcox, one of the 
nation's major reactor designers, concluded that another 198 
pounds of enriched uranium was missing over a twenty-nine- 
month period beginning in April 1974. Further study showed 
that more than no pounds could be accounted for by what the 
NRC study called previously "unidentified and undocumented 
loss mechanisms" — such as the contamination of workers' 
clothing, losses from scrubber systems, material embedded in 
the flooring, and residual deposits in the processing equipment. 
The remaining lost uranium was attributed to "inevitable un- 
certainties in the measurement system and errors in the ac- 
counting system." In other words, uranium loss is hard to 
measure. The high volume of lost uranium raised obvious pol- 


lution questions for the immediate area; the Apollo facility had 
been discharging an average of 13,300 gallons of water and waste 
effluents daily into the nearby Kiskiminetas River, a tributary 
of the Allegheny River, which is the main source of drinking 
water for several communities in the Pittsburgh area.* 

In October 1977, Jody Powell, President Jimmy Carter's press 
secretary, publicly announced that "four years of continuing 
investigation" by the AEC, FBI, and General Accounting Of- 
fice had "failed to reveal" a diversion of uranium to Israel. By 
the end of the year the NUMEC case was being actively pur- 
sued by the House Subcommittee on Oversight and Investiga- 
tions, one of the most competent and aggressive investigative 
units in the Congress, as well as the House Subcommittee on 
Energy and the Environment. Carl Duckett and John Hadden, 
both retired from the CIA, cooperated fully with the subcom- 
mittees; at one point, Duckett telephoned an investigator in the 
middle of the night and insisted that he go to a pay telephone at 
a gas station to return the call. He then urged that the investi- 
gation into Shapiro be carried forward. Hadden, meanwhile, 
was repeatedly suggesting that the Israeli government had to 
have a u mole" — a clandestine operative — inside the Atomic En- 
ergy Commission who had protected Shapiro in the early in- 
vestigations of a possible diversion. 

There was little due process for Shapiro in all of this. The 
subcommittee investigators seemed to take every one of Duck- 
ett' s and Kadden's claims at face value. But it is through those 
claims that outsiders can begin to understand how the CIA and 
the two congressional subcommittees weighed evidence and 
what kind of internal checks and balances were imposed on 
their investigations. 

* An Apollo housewife, Cynthia A. Virostek, eventually began a campaign to in- 
crease public awareness of the potential pollution risk from the plant. In 1990, largely 
on the strength of her protests, she was elected local councilwoman. Mrs. Virostek, 
then thirty-five years old, lives with her husband and two sons five hundred feet from 
the Babcock & Wilcox plant. She became involved after company officials announced in 
the early 1980s that they were beginning decontamination operations. "That kind of 
opened my eyes," she said. "I began asking questions about the plant and nobody gave 
me answers." She then began a relentless campaign, through Freedom of Information 
inquiries, to force information out into the open. A Pennsylvania health department 
study eventually noted, Mrs. Virostek said, that her community was the only one in the 
immediate area to have a statistically significant excess in the number of cancer deaths. 


Duckett's beliefs were most directly expressed in a 1981 ABC 
television interview, when he said there had been a "clear con- 
sensus" inside the CIA that the "most likely case" was that 
Israel had become a nuclear power because of uranium sup- 
plied by Shapiro. "I certainly believe that to be the case. ... I 
believe that all of my senior analysts who worked on the prob- 
lem agreed with me fully," Duckett said. The subcommittee 
investigators had no way of knowing, of course, how little 
Duckett and his "senior analysts" had been able to learn about 
the Israeli nuclear arsenal. The subcommittees also did not 
know that Duckett's initial estimate of Israeli nuclear capabil- 
ity was primarily based on an assertion to that effect by Ed- 
ward Teller, and not on any specific intelligence about the 
capacity of the Israeli reactor or the established existence of a 
chemical reprocessing plant at Dimona. There also was no spe- 
cific evidence linking Shapiro to the delivery of enriched ura- 
nium to Israel. Nor did the subcommittees realize that 
Duckett's 1974 CIA estimate was not without its critics at the 
time. Intelligence officials at the Atomic Energy Commission 
insisted that a footnote be added to the estimate pointing out 
that "any information" about a diversion of uranium to Israel 
was unknown to the commission. "Duckett pushed real hard 
inside the USIB [United States Intelligence Board] to incorpo- 
rate Israel and Apollo" in the special estimate, one AEC official 
recalled, "and it got in there." 

Nonetheless, Henry R. Myers and Peter D. Stockton, the 
chief investigators for the congressional subcommittees, have 
spent nearly fifteen years relaying the Duckett and Hadden 
suppositions to journalists as the views of knowledgeable intel- 
ligence sources; many reporters published the beliefs of Duck- 
ett and Hadden as "facts." 

For example, Myers, a specialist on energy issues for the 
House Subcommittee on Energy, told the author at the begin- 
ning of his research into Zalman Shapiro that there "are rea- 
sons to believe that NUMEC had been set up solely for the 
diversion. The reason for this," Myers explained, "is that no 
one's ever seen clearly where the money came from." Myers 
referred to David Lowenthal's role in 1948 in Israel and added: 
"There were reports of a secure telephone or teletype between 


NUMEC and the Israeli embassy." Myers also told of sitting in 
on a meeting about NUMEC between Richard Helms and a 
group of legislators: "Helms said, in effect, that Shapiro was 
the head of a group of people collecting information, some clas- 
sified and some not, for Israel." There was a further allegation 
that CIA operatives in Israel had found "traces of enriched 
uranium" near Dimona that was similar to the enriched prod- 
ucts that had been delivered for processing to Shapiro's plant. 
There also was a highly suspicious meeting at the airport in 
Pittsburgh between Shapiro and Jeruham Kafkafi, an Israeli 
scientific attache, who flew, so the FBI reported, from Wash- 
ington to Pittsburgh for the meeting and returned immediately 
to Washington. Myers described Kafkafi as "a possible Israeli 
intelligence officer." 

Myers continued to believe well into the early 1990s that his 
statements were correct. But the fact is that David Lowenthal 
was one of a number of investors in NUMEC, some of whom 
were not Jewish. There was no special secure telephone or tele- 
type at NUMEC, a fact acknowledged by Duckett and others 
who have investigated the alleged diversion. Richard Helms 
may indeed have been convinced that Shapiro was the head of 
an Israeli spy ring, but there is no known factual basis for that 
assertion. Duckett and other government investigators into 
NUMEC acknowledged that there was no meaningful correla- 
tion between the uranium processed in the NUMEC plant and 
the traces of enriched uranium picked up by American agents 
outside Dimona. And, finally, Shapiro told the congressional 
investigators — who obviously did not believe him — that his air- 
port meeting with Kafkafi was arranged at his request because 
he had not been paid for the antiterrorist equipment his com- 
pany had shipped to Israel; NUMEC was owed $32,000 — a fact 
he found "embarrassing" — but the company needed the 

Duckett, in a 1991 interview, essentially recanted many of his 
previous assertions. "With all the grief I've caused," he said, 
referring to Shapiro's ruined career, "I know of nothing at all 
to indicate that Shapiro was guilty. There's circumstantial in- 
formation, but I have never attempted to make a judgment on 


this. At no point did I have any vested interest in this whole 
process. It was a matter of trying to be sure when you had 
information that you passed it along. Ultimately," Duckett 
said, "you have no control over the information. I never met 
Shapiro and at no point was I interested in peddling the story." 
Peter Stockton also acknowledged in a 1991 interview that 
he'd had continuing doubts about the credibility of Hadden. "I 
was never overwhelmed with him," Stockton said. He had been 
troubled, he said, when Hadden told one story to subcommit- 
tee investigators and legislators, and then told a different ver- 
sion of the same event to officials of the Government 
Accounting Office, which did a separate investigation of the 
alleged NUMEC diversion. "We were dependent on certain 
people," Stockton said, "who jerked us around." Yet Stockton 
continued to meet with reporters about NUMEC and contin- 
ued to spread the same misinformation, and many journalists 
remain convinced that Shapiro diverted uranium for the Israeli 
bomb. In their book Dangerous Liaison, published in 1991, An- 
drew and Leslie Cockburn, who interviewed Stockton in 1989, 
depicted Shapiro's role in the Israeli acquisition of nuclear 
weapons as being so "delicate" that five American Presidents 
covered it up. "Stockton," they wrote, "found that at least one 
CIA official had a very clear idea of what the NUMEC affair 
was really all about. John Hadden. . . ." 

Babcock & Wilcox shut down Zalman Shapiro's Apollo plant 
in 1978, when the nuclear fuels business suffered a downturn, 
largely because of reduced business from the Navy. Shapiro's 
insistence that the missing uranium had seeped into the ground 
or been flung into the air eventually spawned a controversy 
over nuclear pollution; Babcock & Wilcox, under public pres- 
sure, agreed to keep the Apollo plant open in an attempt to 
determine how much contamination existed. In 1989 the firm 
began to decontaminate the plant, an expensive process that 
involved the virtual dismantling of some areas. Babcock & Wil- 
cox told the community that it would explore ways to return 
the site to productive use — and promised that future operations 
would involve no radioactive materials. 

Late in 1990, Congress approved a Defense Department ap- 


propriations bill that included $30 million to be spent in an 
attempt to clean up the plant, with matching funds from Bab- 
cock & Wilcox. Company officials acknowledged that many sec- 
tions of the plant, including its concrete floor, were so 
contaminated that they had to be dismantled, piece by piece, 
and buried at appropriate sites — after the valuable uranium 
was removed. Nuclear Regulatory Commission officials subse- 
quently admitted that more than one hundred kilograms of en- 
riched uranium — the amount allegedly diverted to Israel by 
Zalman Shapiro — was recovered from the decommissioned 
plant by 1982, with still more being recovered each year. (Such 
recoveries are called "inventory gains" by the NRC.) It wasn't 
clear how much uranium would finally be found. It also wasn't 
clear whether the $60 million allotted for the cleanup by the 
government and Babcock & Wilcox would be enough to do the 
job. And it wasn't clear that the site would ever be safe for 


The Carter Malaise 

The surprising victory of Menachem Begin's Likud 
Party in the May 1977 national elections ended twenty-nine 
years of Mapai and Labor Party domination of the political 
process in Israel. It brought to power a government that was 
even more committed than Labor to the Samson Option and 
the necessity of an Israeli nuclear arsenal. Begin and his politi- 
cal followers represented a populist-nationalist view of a 
greater Israel with a right to permanent control of the West 
Bank; in their view, the mainstream Zionists, represented by 
men such as David Ben-Gurion, had fought three major wars 
with no grand strategy. Israel's military aims were seen as hav- 
ing been dictated by the other side, whose leaders had chosen 
when and on which front war would begin. Begin and his coa- 
lition were determined — as they would demonstrate with disas- 
trous effect in the 1982 Lebanon War — to use Israeli might to 
redraw the political map of the Middle East. 

Nuclear weapons appealed to another side of Begin's charac- 
ter — his fascination with dramatic military moves, as exempli- 
fied by his insistence on the bombing of Iraq's Osirak and his 
involvement, as a leader of Irgun, the underground Jewish ter- 
rorist organization, in the July 1946 bombing of the King David 
Hotel in Jerusalem.* Unlike many Israelis who had immigrated 

* The hotel, which was the headquarters for the British military in Jerusalem, was 
destroyed after months of planning, following a major British sweep against the Jewish 
resistance movement in Palestine that resulted in many arrests and the capture of some 
weapons. The explosion killed eighty-two people, including forty Arabs and seventeen 
Jews, and led to international condemnation. The British responded a week later by 
hanging three suspected Irgun terrorists, and Begin, in turn, ordered the execution of 
two British sergeants held captive by Begin's terrorist organization; their bodies were 
booby-trapped and left hanging upside down, to the long-lasting horror of many Jews. 


from Eastern Europe, Begin had a hatred of Communism and 
the Soviet Union. He and his family had fled to eastern Poland 
after the 1939 German blitzkrieg and, like many Zionists, were 
arrested by Soviet troops and expelled to a Siberian gulag, only 
to be released into a hastily assembled Polish contingent of the 
Red Army after the 1941 Nazi invasion of Russia. 

By all accounts, Begin had never visited Dimona before becom- 
ing prime minister, nor was he especially well informed about 
it. His initial briefings on sensitive national security matters 
were provided by the outgoing prime minister, Yitzhak Rabin. 
Ari Ben-Menashe, a former Israeli signals intelligence expert 
then serving as a civilian official in the ministry of defense, 
recalled that Begin strongly endorsed Dimona's plans for the 
nuclear targeting of the Soviet Union. Begin went a step fur- 
ther, according to Ben-Menashe: u He gave orders to target 
more Soviet cities."* The increased targeting, Ben-Menashe 
said, created a heightened demand for American satellite intel- 
ligence. But Israeli military attaches and diplomats were run- 
ning into a brick wall in Washington, as the Carter 

* Ben-Menashe served more than ten years in the External Relations Department of 
the Israeli Defense Force, one of the most sensitive offices in Israel's intelligence com- 
munity. He left the ministry in 1987, he said, to work directly for Prime Minister 
Yitzhak Shamir as an adviser on intelligence affairs. He was arrested in 1989 in the 
United States on charges of conspiring to violate the Arms Export Control Act by 
attempting to sell Israeli-owned C-130 military aircraft to Iran; he was acquitted in 
November 1990 by a federal jury in New York City. During preliminary proceedings 
and the trial, the Israeli government provided a series of conflicting statements about 
Ben-Menashe, who claimed that the illegal sale had been sanctioned by his government 
and the United States. Israel initially told the court that it had no knowledge of Ben- 
Menashe. It later accused Ben-Menashe of forging the four letters of reference that he 
had obtained upon leaving his job in External Relations. After acknowledging that the 
letters were genuine, it then depicted Ben-Menashe as nothing more than a low-level 
translator for the Israeli intelligence community. Ben-Menashe, in turn, accused his 
government of betrayal after Israel insisted to the court that he had been moonlighting 
as an arms salesman, and he began to talk publicly about what he alleged was his 
involvement in hundreds of millions of dollars' worth of authorized arms sales to Iran 
in the early 1980s that had been secretly endorsed by the Reagan administration. He 
also accused Robert M. Gates, a senior CIA official under Reagan, of direct involve- 
ment, despite Israeli protests, in the sale of arms, including chemical weapons, to Iraq 
from 1986 to 1989. Ben-Menashe's allegations, which have been strongly denied in Wash- 
ington and Jerusalem, were still under congressional review as of summer 1991. 

The author was initially contacted by Ben-Menashe in mid-1990 and began inter- 
viewing him in Washington and elsewhere in early 1991 about the Israeli nuclear arse- 
nal and his activities inside the Israeli signals intelligence establishment. Ben-Menashe 
agreed — as no other Israeli would — to be directly quoted by the author on nuclear 
issues and other matters. In June, he left America for exile in Australia. 


administration retreated from the intense relationship that had 
developed under Presidents Nixon and Ford. One American 
officer who was in charge of a military intelligence agency in 
the first years of the Carter presidency depicted the Israelis as 
being all over the Pentagon and preoccupied with intelligence 
on the Soviets: "They were buzzing around. They were trying 
to get into overhead and they also wanted to know what our 
[military] attaches were reporting and what our requirements 
were. Our establishment was like a honeycomb for them." 

Begin's enthusiastic support for the targeting of the Soviet 
Union was not known to the American intelligence commu- 
nity, still obsessed with its efforts to prove that Zalman Shapiro 
had diverted uranium to Israel. There was no doubt inside the 
intelligence community that Israel had the bomb, and yet no 
one in Washington — not even the new administration of Jimmy 
Carter, the first to be seriously committed to nuclear non- 
proliferation — saw any reason to raise the issue. 

The Israeli government, worried about a backlash from its 
American supporters, continued to publicly deny the existence 
of any nuclear weapons — even when faced with evidence to the 
contrary. In 1976, after Carl Duckett inadvertently revealed in 
Washington that the CIA estimated Israel's arsenal to total at 
least ten warheads, U.S. Ambassador Malcolm Toon had been 
summoned by Yigal Allon, the foreign minister, to discuss the 
issue. "[Allon] was very disturbed over this development," 
Toon said in a cable to the State Department, "and felt it 
scarcely compatible with relationship between our two coun- 
tries. . . . He asked rhetorically why CIA had done it." Toon 
reported that he dutifully explained to Allon that Duckett's 
remarks were supposed to have been off-the-record. He then 
asked Allon whether Duckett's conclusion was accurate: "Al- 
lon looked at me, somewhat startled," Toon reported, "and 
said, 'It is not true.' " 

Allon's bald denial rankled, and a year later, after Carter's 
election, Toon told a delegation of thirteen visiting American 
senators that he was sure Israel had the bomb. The senators, 
led by Abraham Ribicoff, Democrat of Connecticut, were on a 
fact-finding tour about the prospects for nonproliferation in 


the Middle East. They asked permission to inspect Dimona and 
were flatly told that no outsider had visited the reactor since 
the American inspections had ended in 1969, and none was wel- 
come. Toon cabled the State Department about their treat- 
ment, complaining that "it was indecent for Israel to keep us 
out of Dimona." He vividly recalled the bureaucratic response: 
"Don't stir up the waters."* 

The senators went much further than the State Department 
in attempting to paper over the fact that they had been denied 
entrance to the reactor. "This denial was dramatized by the 
press far beyond its actual significance," their subsequent pub- 
lic report noted. "Most of the delegation did not wish to visit 
Dimona because they lacked the technical expertise to make 
such a visit worthwhile. The delegation received no informa- 
tion as to whether Israel has nuclear weapons or not." 

The senators were especially sensitive to the issue, for Con- 
gress had just approved an amendment to the Arms Export 
Control Act making it illegal to provide U.S. foreign aid funds 
to those nations that sold or received nuclear reprocessing or 
enrichment materials, equipment, or technology. The amend- 
ment, as written, had no impact on those nations, such as 
Israel, which had been involved in the transfer or sale of nu- 
clear materials prior to the bill's enactment. Israel, in other 
words, had been grandfathered out. The legislation, sponsored 
by Senator Stuart Symington, also provided for the President 
to override the law if he determined that the termination of 
such aid would be damaging to American national security.** 
The law has been applied two times to Pakistan, and to no 
other nation, since its approval. 

Congress and the White House were, in essence, acceding to 
what had become the arms control community's rationalization 

* Mordecai Vanunu, in one of his many interviews with the London Sunday Times y 
told of finding a newspaper clip about the rebuff of the senators derisively taped to a 
wall in Machon 2, the chemical separation plant at Dimona, when he began working 
there in August 1977. 

** Victor Gilinsky, the NRC commissioner, said he had been at a Washington din- 
ner party shortly after the legislation was passed and listened intently as Symington 
made an informal speech about the importance of limiting the spread of nuclear weap- 
ons. "When he sat down," Gilinsky said, "I asked him, 'What about Israel?* 'Oh, they 
need it/ the senator responded. Tve been telling Dayan for thirty years they have to 
have the bomb.* " 


for its failure to raise questions about the Israeli bomb: Israel 
was no longer a proliferation problem — it had already prolifer- 
ated. One ranking State Department intelligence official, whose 
testimony was crucial to the first Pakistani foreign aid cutoff, 
recalled his cynicism about the Symington legislation: "Did 
any of these guys [senators] who were grilling me so merci- 
lessly about Pakistan ever ask about Israel?" A former Nuclear 
Regulatory Commission official, who was responsible for testi- 
mony on the NRCs position on Israeli compliance with the 
Symington Amendment, recalled his understanding that Con- 
gress "doesn't want to discover anything in an open hearing." 
Although he was personally convinced Israel had developed 
nuclear arms, the official said that he repeatedly testified that he 
had "no evidence" of such weapons existing in Israel. If there 
were any significant items of information that needed to be 
passed along, the official added, "you told them over coffee. 
Never at an open hearing." 

America's tolerance for a nuclear-armed Israel may not have 
troubled the Congress or the media, but it rankled Pakistan's 
President Mohammad Zia ul-Haq. George H. Rathjens, a dep- 
uty early in the Carter administration to Gerard C. Smith, the 
President's specially appointed ambassador-at-large for non- 
proliferation issues, vividly recalled Zia's response when Smith 
raised questions about Pakistan's nuclear program: " 'Why 
don't you people talk to Israel?' Smith was upset," Rathjens 
added, "but there was no way to answer Zia — no satisfactory 
answer." The Israeli nuclear program "wasn't anything people 
[in the U.S. government] wanted to talk about or discuss," 
Rathjens said. "It was an embarrassment." 

Cooperation between Israel and South Africa on nuclear issues 
began in earnest after the 1967 Six-Day War when Israel, re- 
buffed by Charles de Gaulle, was forced to look elsewhere for 
support. Pierre Pean, in Les deux bombes, told of the surprising 
encounter in Johannesburg in 1967 between a French nuclear 
scientist who had been at Dimona and a group of Israeli nu- 
clear scientists who had worked ten years earlier with the 
French at Saclay and Marcoule. The French physicist and his 
colleagues had helped the Israelis learn skills that they were 


now passing along to the South Africans. Israel was trading its 
expertise in nuclear physics for the uranium ore and other stra- 
tegic minerals that existed in abundance in South Africa. The 
South Africans needed all the technical support they could get, 
recalled Ari Ben-Menashe: "They weren't good at all as a nu- 
clear state. We had to help all the way." 

In 1968, Ernst David Bergmann, out of office in Israel but still 
influential on nuclear issues, traveled to South Africa, where he 
spoke publicly on the "move toward international collabora- 
tion" on nuclear issues. In a speech to the South African Insti- 
tute of International Affairs in Johannesburg, Bergmann said 
nothing about nuclear weapons, but talked candidly about the 
"common problem" facing Israel and South Africa: "Neither 
of us has neighbors to whom we can speak and to whom we are 
going to be able to speak in the near future. If we are in this 
position of isolation, perhaps it might be best for both coun- 
tries to speak to each other." 

Bergmann's talk of isolation seemed prophetic as all but 
three black African states (Malawi, Lesotho, and Swaziland) 
broke diplomatic relations with Israel in the wake of the 1973 
Yom Kippur War and Israel's continued insistence on holding 
on to the occupied territories. Many of Israel's former allies in 
Africa increasingly began to support Palestinian aspirations. In 
November 1975, the United Nations General Assembly voted 
seventy-two to thirty-five (with thirty-two abstentions) in favor 
of a resolution that defined Zionism as "a form of racism and 
racial discrimination." Israeli Ambassador Chaim Herzog re- 
sponded by accusing the United Nations of becoming "the 
world center of anti-Semitism." 

Israel and South Africa, two "pariah" states, had turned to 
each other with renewed trading and arms sales after the war; 
within three years, joint trade grew from $30 million to $100 
million a year. South Africa's small but influential Jewish pop- 
ulation of 118,000 were always large contributors to Israeli bond 
drives and charities; now they also became more vocal in their 
support for Israel's more conservative political parties, includ- 
ing Menachem Begin's Likud Party. In 1974, Defense Minister 
Moshe Dayan had made a secret trip to Pretoria, where, ac- 
cording to Ari Ben-Menashe, he discussed the possibility of an 


Israeli nuclear test on South African soil. Dayan left the Israeli 
cabinet a few months later, when Yitzhak Rabin became prime 
minister, but continuity on key Israeli-South African defense 
and nuclear issues was assured with Rabin's appointment of 
Shimon Peres to the defense portfolio. Two years later, Prime 
Minister John Vorster, who had sided with Germany during 
World War II, visited Israel — the first official state visit by a 
South African prime minister in Israel's history.* 

Peres made at least one private trip to Pretoria before the 
Vorster visit, just as he had made private trips to France 
twenty years earlier to arrange for arms and nuclear coopera- 
tion. His agenda included nuclear testing — the issue initially 
raised by Moshe Dayan — and he won a commitment in princi- 
ple from John Vorster, according to Ben-Menashe, for a series 
of joint Israeli-South African tests in South Africa. Vorster's 
highly publicized visit to Israel resulted in a renewal of full 
diplomatic relations, as well as secret arms transfer agreements 
that would enable the two countries, working together in defi- 
ance of international opinion and United Nations sanctions, to 
emerge by the early 1980s as economies that were highly depen- 
dent on foreign arms sales. 

Israeli sources put the number of secret military and nuclear 
understandings between Israel and South Africa at u six or 
seven" by the end of the Vorster visit. "Why?" a former Israeli 
official asked rhetorically. He cited four reasons. u One: to share 
basic resources. South Africa is a very rich country and Israel is 
poor. Two: the supply of raw materials. Three: testing 
grounds. Try to do a [nuclear] test in Israel and all hell breaks 
loose. In South Africa it's different. Four: there is a certain 
sympathy for the situation of South Africa among Israelis. 
They are also European settlers standing against a hostile 

"South Africa, when it realized it wanted to go nuclear, also 
realized there was one country it could turn to," added the 
Israeli, who has firsthand knowledge of Israel's nuclear policy. 

* The April 1976 visit was denounced by the Organization of African States (OAS) 
and the Cairo-based Arab League, as well as by the Soviet Union and the Netherlands. 


The issue of Israel's nuclear arms remained in the background 
in the first years of the Carter administration, whose major 
priorities included a Middle East solution. The nuclear intelli- 
gence experts at Los Alamos and Livermore had been trying 
to monitor the shipment of uranium ore from South Africa to 
Israel since the early 1960s, but simply failed to see, or failed to 
understand, the full scope of South Africa's continuing efforts 
in nuclear technology. In 1970, Prime Minister John Vorster 
informed Parliament that the nation's nuclear scientists had 
developed a unique uranium enrichment process involving jet- 
nozzle enrichment and a sophisticated cascade technique. 
Within a few years, South Africa began construction of a pilot 
plant for the production of enriched uranium, not subject to 
IAEA safeguards, at a plant called Valindaba near Pretoria.* 

The American intelligence community knew nothing of the 
secret negotiations between Vorster and Peres, but there were 
a few analysts who knew something was up between the two 
nations. By the mid-1970s, one American official recalled, "[t]he 
South Africans and Israel were suddenly doing things in such a 
different way that it took us by surprise. They went from the 
drawing board to the production [of enriched uranium]. They 
leapfrogged us in production design and output and we 
weren't looking in the right places." The official's point was 
that the nuclear production process in the United States was so 
huge and unwieldy that innovations were difficult to achieve; 
any new process would be tested for years in pilot production 
before being adopted in the government's main weapons as- 
sembly line near Amarillo, Texas, which is capable of produc- 
ing five thousand or more warheads a year. 

By the mid-1970s, South Africa considered itself in an analo- 
gous position to that faced by Israel after 1967: it was fighting 
an internal war against the African National Congress and the 
anti-apartheid movement as well as a war of secession in 
Namibia, and an external war against the growing black na- 
tionalism and emerging independence of Angola and Mozam- 

* The plant's name, Valindaba, hints at its real purpose: it means "the council is 
closed" or "the talking is over" in the local African Sotho dialect. 


bique in the frontline states of southern Africa. In the long 
run, the military prospects of South Africa were bleak: the 
leaders of South Africa saw themselves, as did the men running 
Israel, to be vastly outnumbered by their enemies. 

There was security, so the Afrikaners believed, in the nu- 
clear bomb. And, like Israel, South Africa would need a 
weapon — a low-yield nuclear artillery shell — that could be used 
in case frontline defenses were breached and urban centers 
threatened. In August 1977, Soviet President Leonid Brezhnev 
privately warned the Carter administration that his nation's 
Cosmos satellite system had detected evidence of South African 
preparations for a nuclear test, or series of tests, at what was 
determined to be an underground site in the Kalahari. Similar 
warnings were sent to Britain, France, and West Germany, all 
participants — with the Soviets and the United States — in a 1975 
conference in London that had set up the Nuclear Suppliers 
Group, which established a series of voluntary guidelines for 
limiting technical and material aid to non-nuclear nations.* 

An American satellite was immediately routed over the 
Kalahari and saw the classic signs of preparations for an under- 
ground nuclear test — a test hole had been dug with casing 
around it, an observation tower had been put up, and the many 
cables needed for measurement were in place. Carter and 
Brezhnev, working together, led an international campaign of 
protest, and the South African government, facing the loss of 
diplomatic relations, backed down by the end of August. Carter 
publicly announced that "South Africa has informed us that 
they do not have and do not intend to develop nuclear explo- 
sive devices for any purpose, either peaceful or as a weapon." 
The President also said he had been assured that the Kalahari 
test site "is not designed ... to test nuclear explosives, and 

* Third World nations, not without reason, accused the Nuclear Suppliers Group — 
convened after India's 1974 nuclear test — of instituting what amounted to an interna- 
tional cartel to perpetuate the advanced positions of the major powers; there were 
further claims that the agreements violated the promise given to non-nuclear states in 
Article Six of the Nonproliferation Treaty, which explicitly calls on all parties to 
facilitate "the fullest possible exchange of equipment, materials and scientific and tech- 
nological information for the peaceful uses of nuclear energy." The NPT also called 
for special attention to the "needs of the developing areas of the world." 


that no nuclear explosive test will be taken in South Africa 
now or in the future." 

The White House, jubilant over its first major foreign policy 
success, arranged for a series of elaborate briefings to the news 
media about the intricacies of its successful diplomacy. The 
reporters were not told, however, that the CIA had reported 
that Israeli military personnel, in civilian clothes, were all over 
the Kalahari test site, and being "quite open about it," as a CIA 
officer recalled. The press also was not told that a senior South 
African diplomat had privately assured the United States at the 
height of the crisis in early August that his military was not 
planning to test a long-range missile, but only "a rocket or 
artillery round — something like that." 

The CIA would later conclude, in a formal assessment for 
the White House, that the strong international protests over 
Kalahari had deflected South Africa "at least temporarily" 
from carrying out its planned test. Israelis, added the CIA as- 
sessment, have "participated in certain South African nuclear 
research activities over the last few years. . . ." 

Carter's heavily promoted diplomatic "victory in the desert" 
was far less significant than it appeared; a real triumph would 
have involved going a step further and taking on the Israeli 
nuclear program, and no one in the Carter White House had 
the stomach for that. 

It was into this Washington that an Israeli with inside informa- 
tion about Dimona — seeking to trade that information for per- 
sonal advancement — arrived late in the year. He contacted a 
senior official in the American nuclear intelligence community 
with whom he had dealt professionally in the past, and imme- 
diately revealed the fact that Israel had assembled well over one 
hundred nuclear warheads. There would be more than two 
hundred warheads, many of them low-yield devices, by the 
year 1980, the Israeli added. The American official, who is Jew- 
ish, understood why the Israeli was willing to talk: "He was a 
technical person looking for favors. This guy wanted to be- 
come a U.S. citizen." The fact that Israel had nuclear weapons, 
the American rationalized, was "general knowledge through- 
out the U.S. government. My feeling was this one individual 


wanted to hustle information for personal advantage. I decided 
to ignore it." 

And so he did not forward the information to his superiors 
and colleagues, although he had no doubt that the information 
was accurate. The American said he knew of Israelis in other 
technical fields, apparently dismayed by the election of Begin, 
who had approached their American counterparts with offers 
to trade information and intelligence for a chance to emigrate 
to the United States. 

There were other, and more traditional, approaches, as the 
relationship between Jimmy Carter and Menachem Begin be- 
came increasingly strained in the wake of Camp David, and as 
some Israeli officials tried — apparently without high-level ap- 
proval — to get some strategic help for Israeli ambitions and put 
an end to America's refusal to recognize the reality of the Is- 
raeli nuclear arsenal. 

Their starting point was an appropriately obscure corner of 
the Pentagon known as the Office of Net Assessments, whose 
director, Andrew W. Marshall, a former Rand Corporation an- 
alyst, has been providing secretaries of defense with an inde- 
pendent flow of intelligence and analysis for two decades. In 
the last months of the Ford administration, Marshall won ac- 
ceptance of a plan to begin a strategic dialogue with Israel; one 
goal was to investigate a possible cooperative U.S.-Israeli de- 
fense treaty. Some of Israel's most sophisticated strategic think- 
ers were assigned by Prime Minister Rabin to the ad hoc 
group, including Avraham Tamir, an Israeli Army general 
who would later serve as director general of the foreign minis- 
try. It was Tamir, one member of the Marshall group recalled, 
who repeatedly sought to discuss nuclear issues after Anwar 
Sadat's dramatic visit to Jerusalem in November 1977, the first 
step toward the Camp David talks.* The question was: would 
Marshall and his Defense Department staff discuss contingency 

* Sadat met privately with Begin shortly after arriving in Jerusalem, and, according 
to Israeli officials, his first questions dealt with the Israeli nuclear arsenal. One Israeli 
who has seen a high-level summary of the Begin-Sadat meeting said that the Egyptian 
leader sought assurances that Israel would pledge not to use nuclear weapons against 
Egypt if a peace treaty between the two nations was signed. Begin did not reply, 
according to the Israeli account. 


plans for joint nuclear targeting of southern Russia in case of 

That question was supersensitive, as all involved understood 
— America was still officially accepting Israeli assurances it had 
no nuclear arms — and it was referred in writing on at least two 
occasions to Secretary of Defense Harold Brown for guidance. 
The answer, in both cases, came back quickly: there was to be 
no discussion of nuclear doctrine by Marshall's shop. 

Brown, interviewed later about Tamir's initiative, at first dis- 
missed it as another example of the need for military planners 
to make contingency plans. He then spoke hypothetically: "If 
such a request did come to me, it didn't take me long to think 
about it." He finally acknowledged that he had rejected the 
Israeli approach without discussing it with President Carter. 
The Carter administration, Brown asserted, "would not have 
wanted to get involved in an Israeli-Soviet conflict. The whole 
idea of Israel becoming our asset seems crazy to me. The Israe- 
lis would say, 'Let us help you,' and then you end up being 
their tool. The Israelis have their own security interests and we 
have our interests. They are not identical." Andrew Marshall 
and his colleagues in the Office of Net Assessments viewed 
Brown's position as — as one American put it — "a foolish con- 
straint," but followed his instructions and, of course, told no 
one else in the U.S. government about the Israeli request for 
joint nuclear targeting.* 

It was another disconnect as the American bureaucracy in- 
stinctively continued to protect its President from learning the 
facts about the Israeli nuclear capability — and from having to 
act on that knowledge. That instinct reached its height in the 
fall of 1979, when the Israelis and the South Africans finally 
pulled off their test. 

* A senior American intelligence official recalled that the French had occasionally 
made similar requests to the Pentagon for joint nuclear targeting and intelligence 
sharing and invariably been rejected out of hand, without the issue being raised at the 
secretary of defense level, as was done with Avraham Tamir's proposal. "It was mani- 
fest that no one was afraid of the French," the official said, "but they were afraid of the 
Israelis. We all knew the French didn't have a back-door relationship" with the White 
House, as Israel did. 


An Israeli Test 

Just before dawn on the stormy morning of September 
22, 1979, the clouds over the South Indian Ocean suddenly broke 
and an American satellite was able to record two distinctive 
bright flashes of light within a fraction of a second — probable 
evidence of a nuclear explosion. The nuclear detection satellite, 
known as vela, had seen similar flashes of light on forty-one 
previous occasions, and in each case it was subsequently deter- 
mined that a nuclear explosion had taken place. Most of the 
sightings were over Lap Nor, where the Chinese atmospheric 
nuclear tests took place, or in the South Pacific, site of the 
French tests. There were a few intelligence officials and non- 
proliferation experts in the Carter administration who immedi- 
ately concluded that Israel and South Africa had finally 
conducted a nuclear test, a test that they had tried, and failed, 
to accomplish two years earlier. 

They were right. 

Former Israeli government officials, whose information on 
other aspects of Dimona's activities has been corroborated, said 
that the warhead tested that Saturday morning was a low-yield 
nuclear artillery shell that had been standardized for use by the 
Israeli Defense Force. The Israeli sources also said the event 
captured by the vela satellite was not the first but the third test 
of a nuclear device over the Indian Ocean. At least two Israeli 
Navy ships had sailed to the site in advance, and a contingent 
of Israeli military men and nuclear experts — along with the 
South African Navy — was observing the tests. u We wouldn't 
send ships down there for one test," one Israeli said. "It was a 
fuck-up," he added, referring to the capture of a test by the 
vela satellite. "There was a storm and we figured it would 


block vela, but there was a gap in the weather — a window — 
and vela got blinded by the flash." 

The vela satellite, as it was programmed to do, digitally re- 
layed its sighting to the headquarters of the Air Force Techni- 
cal Applications Center (AFTAC) at Patrick Air Force Base in 
Cape Canaveral, Florida; it was Friday night, September 21, on 
the East Coast. Once evaluated and confirmed, the intelligence 
was routed, via the Defense Intelligence Agency, to the Penta- 
gon's National Military Command Center and relayed to 
America's top civilian and military leaders. The nuclear event 
was estimated to have taken place off the coast of Prince Ed- 
ward Island, about fifteen hundred miles southeast of the Cape 
of Good Hope in South Africa, halfway to Antarctica. The 
intelligence was at the top of the CIA's and DIA's Saturday- 
morning briefing for President Carter and his national security 
adviser, Zbigniew Brzezinski. 

Gerald G. Oplinger, Brzezinski's aide for global issues, was 
spending the early fall weekend at his summer house at Deep 
Creek Lake, Maryland, when word of the possible test came: he 
was summoned back to an urgent meeting in the White House 
situation room. Oplinger had retired from the Foreign Service 
and worked at the Nuclear Regulatory Commission before 
joining Brzezinski's staff; he was familiar with the vela pro- 
gram and knew that its previous sightings of Chinese and 
French atmospheric tests had been unfailingly accurate. "Ev- 
erybody showed up," Oplinger recalled, meaning that Brzezin- 
ski was at the meeting, "and we went around and asked, 'Was it 
a test?' CIA and DIA said that odds were at least ninety percent 
that it had been a nuclear explosion." Oplinger personally had 
no doubt, as he recalled: "Common sense told me that there 
was a high probability that it was what it was — it was just too 

"People just stood there, paralyzed," recalled Spurgeon M. 
Keeny, Jr., deputy director of the Arms Control and Disarma- 
ment Agency (ACDA), a senior bureaucrat who had been in- 
volved in high-level scientific issues since the Eisenhower 
administration. Keeny realized, he said, that he and his col- 
leagues "needed to buy some time. Even if a test was done, we 


didn't know who did it. This was a serious matter." Keeny also 
was troubled by the intelligence community's assurances that 
its assessment was 90 percent accurate. In his view, the CIA 
and DIA officials at the situation-room meeting surely could 
not know all the facts: "They were middle-level bureaucrats 
relaying data." 

In Keeny's account, it was his idea to set up an outside panel 
to study the vela data and ensure that the satellite had not 
made an error — one with enormous political consequences. 
Jerry Oplinger had a different recollection: "The meeting was 
going nowhere and Frank Press [the presidential science ad- 
viser] said, 'Let's convene an unbiased outside study.' " 
Oplinger had no illusions about what Frank Press meant: 
"Press kept on asking, 'What do we do if it leaks out that we've 
concluded it was a test?' He did not want that panel to con- 
clude there had been a nuclear explosion." Brzezinski had little 
to say during the meeting, Oplinger recalled.* 

Frank Press, a seismologist who had worked for years on 
classified nuclear detection issues, knew the vela program far 
better than any of his peers in the White House. He knew that 
the satellites were ancient by satellite standards — some having 
been launched in the early 1960s — and were constantly being 
updated and analyzed by scientists at the Los Alamos Scientific 
Laboratories, who had helped design the system, to ensure that 
no deterioration had set in. There had been, in fact, recent 
concern about false alarms that could trigger a phony intelli- 
gence report. The outside panel was a natural step, one that 
would indeed buy some time, and one that would also add a 
patina of legitimacy to the delaying effort. Meanwhile, exis- 

* Brzezinski, according to his aides, was never particularly interested in prolifera- 
tion or nuclear-fuel-cycle issues. President Carter had triggered an uproar by continu- 
ing President Ford's 1976 ban on the commercial reprocessing of spent nuclear fuel for 
power reactors. Carter's action, based on environmental and proliferation concerns, 
was viewed by the American nuclear power industry as a foolish move that would stifle 
the sale of American reactors and equipment around the world. His NSC aides weren't 
convinced that Brzezinski fully understood the issue. At one stage early in the adminis- 
tration, Oplinger recalled being told, Brzezinski agreed to a briefing by Jessica Tuch- 
man, Oplinger's predecessor on the NSC staff, and stood by as she described the 
nuclear fuel cycle, beginning with the insertion of nuclear fuel into a reactor and 
ending with the reprocessing of the spent fuel. "Zbig listened to all this," Oplinger 
related, "and then asked, 'Okay, now tell me — where does the energy come from?' " 
Brzezinski did not mention the vela incident in his 1983 memoir Power and Principle. 


tence of the vela sighting became one of the most important 
secrets of the Carter administration. 

The officials at the top of the troubled Carter administration 
knew that public revelation of the vela sighting, with its 
strong inference of an illicit Israeli-South African test, would 
create a horrible dilemma for the President, just a few months 
away from the 1980 presidential campaign. Carter had draped 
himself in the flag of nonproliferation, and if he did not get 
tough with the two pariah nations, he would be criticized for 
hypocrisy; if he did seek sanctions, there would be political hell 
to pay. "When that thing up there went 'Twinkle, twinkle, 
little star,' " recalled Hodding Carter III, then the assistant sec- 
retary of state for public affairs, "I can remember running 
around on the seventh floor," where Secretary of State Cyrus 
R. Vance's office was located. "There was sheer panic," Carter 
said. "It was very much 'Oh, shit. Oh, dear. What do we do 
with this?' " 

"We were in the worst possible position," another govern- 
ment official recalled. "Here we are, ready to send the SALT 
treaty up to the Senate, and we know there's been a violation of 
the [1963] test ban treaty and we can't prove it and we can't pin 
it on anyone. There was a very immediate strategic imperative 
to make this thing go away." The official, who had access to all 
of the available intelligence on the vela sighting, said it was 
evident that the satellite had observed what "could only be a 
nuclear event. Our capturing it fortuitously was an embarrass- 
ment, a big political problem, and there were a lot of people 
who wanted to obscure the event." 

The American policy in Iran was in chaos, with the ailing 
shah — who had been so warmly toasted two years earlier by 
Jimmy Carter — in Mexico and pleading for admission to the 
United States.* There had been a stupendous intelligence gaffe 

* The shah was admitted for medical treatment into the United States on October 
22, triggering a renewed wave of anti-American rioting in Tehran and the eventual 
seizure of the American embassy on November 4, beginning Jimmy Carter's hostage 
nightmare. During the tense discussions before the shah's arrival, recalled Nicholas 
Veliotes, then serving as the assistant secretary of state for Near East and South Asian 
affairs, the ousted leader confided that he had been negotiating with the Israelis for the 
purchase of long-range missiles capable of firing a nuclear warhead. "He said that the 
Israelis had told him not to tell us," Veliotes added. Veliotes's information, like most 


just a few weeks before over a breathtaking report suggesting 
that a Soviet brigade had moved into Cuba, presenting a direct 
challenge to Carter, just as the Soviets had challenged John F. 
Kennedy in 1962. The intelligence leaked, and the administra- 
tion, taking the hard line in public, demanded that the Soviets 
remove their troops. It turned out not to be a triumphant Cu- 
ban missile crisis, however, as embarrassed Carter officials 
were forced to acknowledge that their initial intelligence re- 
port was simply wrong: Soviet soldiers had been in Cuba since 
the early 1960s. Adding to the mortification was the fact that 
the administration was then preparing for what was sure to be 
a bitter fight with Senate Republicans over the U.S. govern- 
ment's ability to verify the June 1979 SALT II agreements. The 
SALT agreement plus Carter's success at Camp David were 
scheduled to be featured in his reelection campaign. 

An Israeli bomb threatened all this and made it imperative 
that the American President, once again, not know what there 
was to know. The American bureaucracy had been in training 
for more than thirty years in looking the other way when it 
came to the Israeli nuclear program, and every part of the sys- 
tem instinctively sought to find a way to avoid calling the Is- 
raeli-South African test a test. 

There was widespread knowledge of the test in Israel. Ari Ben- 
Menashe recalled seeing correspondence on the issue in his 
ministry of defense office shortly after Menachem Begin's elec- 
tion in 1977. It was widely assumed that there had been some 
secret diplomacy between former Defense Minister Shimon 
Peres and John Vorster during Peres's visit to South Africa in 
1976, but just what commitments had been made were not 
widely known inside the Israeli government. It was also under- 
stood, Ben-Menashe said, that Peres was not going to tell 
Menachem Begin about it. And Begin, in turn, would not di- 
rectly approach Peres, who — along with David Ben-Gurion — 
had treated him with contempt and ridicule throughout his 
career. Begin's solution was to dispatch Ezer Weizman, the 
newly appointed minister of defense, to South Africa. 

intelligence data about Israeli nuclear intentions, was not made known to other Ameri- 
can officials. 


Weizman's mission, said Ben-Menashe, was "just to find out 
what was going on." 

"Weizman came back," Ben-Menashe recalled, "and said, 
'We've promised these guys nuclear warheads.' He recom- 
mended to Begin that they pay up and carry out the promise." 
Ben-Menashe said he and others in External Relations under- 
stood that Begin responded by saying, in effect, "Yes. Do it!" 

Another Israeli, who also had direct access to defense minis- 
try information about the test in South Africa, said that 
Weizman signed an agreement before the 1979 tests calling for 
the sale to South Africa of technology and equipment needed 
for the manufacture of low-yield 175mm and 203mm nuclear 
artillery shells. Weizman's order triggered an internal dispute 
with senior nuclear officials, the Israeli recalled, who protested 
the government's decision to sell the information, considered 
by the men running Dimona to be "the best stuff we got."* 

Frank Press finally settled on Jack P. Ruina, a professor of 
electrical engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Tech- 
nology, to direct the outside panel and determine whether 
some of Israel's "best stuff" had ended up over the South In- 
dian Ocean. It was a perfect choice, in terms of discretion: 
Ruina, a longtime consultant to the Pentagon on military and 
scientific issues, held many of the most sensitive clearances in 
the American military and scientific community; he had served 
as director in the early 1960s of the Advanced Research Project 
Agency (ARPA), the Pentagon's research arm, and later di- 
rected the Institute for Defense Analysis (IDA), the Pentagon's 
most important think tank. Ruina was an honorable and cau- 
tious man who could be counted on to follow orders and not 
talk to reporters, especially after his hush-hush introduction to 
the White House crisis. "Press called and asked me to come on 

* After the 1973 war, the Israeli Defense Force established at least three nuclear- 
capable artillery battalions, each containing twelve self-propelled 175mm cannons. The 
battalions were considered part of Israel's strategic reserve and operated under stream- 
lined command-and-control: nuclear shells could be fired on the direct orders of the 
prime minister, as relayed through the minister of defense, the Army Chief of Staff, 
and the chief of operations directly to the artillery battalion commander. Clearance 
was not required, as in normal operations, from any officer at the regional headquar- 
ters, corps, division, or brigade level. Former Israeli army officers said at least three 
nuclear artillery shells eventually were stockpiled for each weapon — a total of 108 war- 
heads. Additional warheads were supplied for Israel's 203mm cannons. 


down [to the White House]," Ruina recalled. "He said, 'I can't 
talk about it on the phone. Just come on down.' " 

Within weeks, as the White House's secret continued to hold, 
Press and Ruina picked an ad hoc panel of eight distinguished 
scientists, whose integrity was beyond reproach. Ruina's key 
colleagues included Luis Alvarez, of the physics department at 
the University of California, a Nobel laureate; Wolfgang K. H. 
Panofsky, of Stanford University's Linear Accelerator Center; 
and Richard L. Garwin, of IBM's Thomas J. Watson Research 
Center. Panofsky and Garwin had served often as government 
consultants and were known for their independence. 

The panel's assignment, carefully drawn up by Spurgeon 
Keeny and Frank Press, was weighted, to no one's surprise, 
toward a thorough investigation into the possibility that the 
vela sighting had been a false alarm. The Ruina panel was also 
told to investigate the possibility that the recorded signal "was 
of natural origin, possibly resulting from the coincidence of 
two or more natural phenomena. ..." 

Ruina was clear about the limits on his assignment. "My 
mandate was to only look at technical data," he recalled. He 
and his colleagues were provided with all of the available intel- 
ligence about the vela sighting, Ruina said, "but we didn't in- 
clude any political data — like are the Israelis interested in 
nuclear weapons? That was not in our charter." The panel 
members were comfortable with their mandate: purely techni- 
cal studies were a way of life for scientific consultants to the 

Despite its explosiveness, knowledge of the vela report re- 
mained a closely held secret for more than a month, until ABC 
television reporter John Scali was told by an old friend about a 
simulated Soviet nuclear attack on the United States that had 
been missed by America's early warning system. The old 
friend was very conservative, Scali recalled, and he thought the 
American failure "was an outrage." Scali, who had been the 
ambassador to the United Nations under Nixon, ran the story 
by another old friend in the Pentagon. Within hours, he was 
summoned to the office of a senior Defense Department official 


who gave him the essential facts.* He broadcast his story on the 
evening of October 25: the secret had held for more than a 
month, long enough for the White House to have its cover 
story ready. Its spokesmen immediately informed the news me- 
dia that there was "no confirmation" of a test. Secretary of 
State Vance, following the company line, also told journalists 
there was no conclusive evidence of a test, and South Africa 
issued a heated denial.** "Faced with a denial by South Africa 
of such nuclear activity," dutifully wrote the New York Times, 
"and lacking any proof beyond the uncorroborated evidence of 
a single satellite, the United States Government sought to 
avoid a major confrontation over what it said was only the 
possibility that some nation had secretly exploded a nuclear 
device in an area of some 4,500 square miles. . . ." Vance fur- 
ther told the press that within hours of the first vela signal, he 
had discussed the matter with Brzezinski and Defense Secre- 
tary Harold Brown. 

None of the reporters knew, of course, that Harold Brown's 
Office of Net Assessments had already been approached two 
times by a senior Israeli official seeking to discuss joint U.S.- 
Israeli strategic targeting of the Soviet Union. Did Brown tell 
Cyrus Vance at the time about the nuclear approach, or, for 
that matter, did he report it to the President and his national 
security adviser? Did anyone in the U.S. government review 
the intelligence files on the planned 1977 South African test in 
the Kalahari? Did any of the senior White House officials won- 
der why a flotilla of South African and Israeli military ships 
had been tracked by the National Security Agency and other 
elements of the intelligence community to a site fifteen hun- 
dred miles off the coast of South Africa?* 

* Carter, with his emphasis on nonproliferation and human rights, was less than 
popular at the Pentagon. 

## One of the strangest denials to emerge from the controversy came from South 
African Vice Admiral J. C. Walters, who made public a statement suggesting that the 
flash could have been caused by an accident aboard a Soviet nuclear submarine. The 
admiral's statement, which said that Soviet involvement was "a real possibility," was 
reported by the New York Times to have been issued with the approval of Prime Minis- 
ter P. W. Botha, who also was South Africa's minister of defense. The admiral offered 
no factual basis for his Cold War assertion, which soon sank from sight. 

t Victor Gilinsky, still serving in 1979 on the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, re- 
called inquiring during an official briefing whether there were ships in the Indian 
Ocean and being told no. He learned the next day that there indeed had been ships 


And, finally, did anyone notice what Prime Minister P. W. 
Botha had to say on September 25, 1979, three days after the test 
— three days in which there had been no international com- 
ment or outcry? Botha had reason to believe that his nation and 
its Israeli partners had pulled it off. There was a swagger in his 
remarks before a meeting of the Cape National Party congress 
as he warned, according to the Rand Daily Mail, that South 
Africa had and could produce sufficient arms to counter terror- 
ism — an obvious reference to the African National Congress 
(ANC), leaders of the anti-apartheid movement. "If there are 
people who are thinking of doing something else," the newspa- 
per quoted Botha as saying, "I suggest they think twice about 
it. They might find out we have military weapons they do not 
know about." 

The Ruina panel members would spend months effectively 
poking holes in and raising legitimate questions about the relia- 
bility and integrity of the vela satellite system. The panel 
chose to concentrate on what became known as the "false 
alarm" issue. Nuclear explosions produce two distinctly char- 
acteristic and separate flashes of light — from the initial detona- 
tion and the subsequent fireball about one third of a second 
later — that are recorded as double humps on a graph by the 
vela satellite. The panel was troubled by the anomalies it 
found in the double humps as recorded on September 22 and 
concluded, as it stated in its final report, that the vela sighting 
"contains sufficient internal inconsistency to cast serious doubt 
whether that signal originated from a nuclear explosion or in 
fact from any light sources in the proximity of the vela satel- 
lite." The panel also could find no collateral signs of a nuclear 
event — seismic signals, acoustic waves, ionospheric distur- 
bances, magnetic or electromagnetic pulses that had accompa- 
nied previous vela reports. No significant radioactive fallout or 
other debris was located; there was no "smoking gun" that 
made the panel's conclusion ineluctable. The lack of such find- 
ings was not unusual in itself, given the low yield of the test 
and its isolated location; Press and the panel members knew 

there. Gilinsky wasn't surprised when the Ruina panel concluded that no nuclear test 
probably had taken place: "Everyone took the bureaucratically appropriate decision." 


that U.S. government seismologists had long suspected the So- 
viets had conducted many low-yield tests in the 1950s and 1960s 
that were not detected by the available American systems. 

The panel eventually reported in July 1980, ten months after 
the event, that the flash observed by the satellite u was probably 
not from a nuclear explosion. Although we cannot rule out the 
possibility that this signal was of nuclear origin," the unclassi- 
fied version of the ad hoc report said, "the panel considers it 
more likely that the signal was one of the zoo events [a signal of 
unknown cause], possibly a consequence of the impact of a 
small meteoroid on the satellite." 

The findings outraged the nuclear scientists and professional 
bomb makers of Los Alamos, who had designed the vela sys- 
tem. Many of these men were members of the Nuclear Intelli- 
gence Panel (NIP), the most highly classified nuclear 
intelligence group in the U.S. government. NIP had done its 
own investigation into the vela test, and had been ordered by 
the White House — citing national security — not to discuss it 

Its finding, openly discussed by NIP members in interviews 
with the author, was that a low-yield nuclear weapon most 
certainly had been detonated on September 22. They were dis- 
mayed by the extent of White House interference in the inves- 
tigation. "If it looks like a duck, it's got to be a duck," said 
Harold M. Agnew, a NIP member and director of the Los 
Alamos laboratory from 1970 to 1979. "But that wasn't an an- 
swer Carter liked." The overriding issue, in Agnew's view, was 
not whether a nuclear bomb was exploded, but "Who did it?" 
Another panel member, Louis H. Roddis, Jr., who played a 
major role in America's postwar nuclear weapons develop- 
ment, concluded that the South African-Israeli test had taken 
place on a barge, or on one of the islands in the South Indian 
Ocean archipelago. He, too, expressed anger at Frank Press and 
the White House. "There was a real effort on the part of the 
administration to downplay it," Roddis said. "They were, in- 
deed, concealing the facts — manipulating the facts. Everybody 
in New Mexico was convinced that it was a test." 

The secret NIP study was directed by Donald M. Kerr, Jr., 
who had served in the Carter administration as acting director 


of the defense programs at the Department of Energy — he was 
the man responsible for America's nuclear bombs. "We were all 
insiders — not the kind of guys who'd run off at the mouth in 
public," he said, in explaining why his panel members did not 
speak out on the issue at the time. u We had no doubt it was a 
bomb," Kerr said, adding that in his opinion the Ruina panel's 
mandate was driven by politics: u to find a different explana- 

One mystery is why the Ruina panel scientists, all honorable 
men, would place themselves in a position where others could 
limit what information they could evaluate. The panel mem- 
bers had been assured that they would be given all of the rele- 
vant intelligence about the satellite, and yet one of the most 
important discoveries — uncovered by Ruina himself and 
known to the White House — was not made available to them. 

Ruina was a director of MIT's Defense and Arms Control 
Studies Program and, as such, was involved in late 1979 in the 
preparation of a federally funded MIT report that assessed the 
foreign availability of critical components for the assembly of 
short-range ballistic missiles and compared those components 
with those manufactured in the United States. One of Ruina's 
three colleagues in preparing the report was an Israeli post- 
graduate student. Shortly after Ruina's involvement on the 
vela sighting became known at MIT, the Israeli, who said he 
had worked on the Israeli nuclear missile systems, began talk- 
ing to Ruina about Israel's nuclear capability. "I had the feeling 
he [the Israeli] knew an enormous amount," recalled George 
Rathjens, the former Carter administration nonproliferation 
official who was Ruina's close colleague at MIT. u He knew 
about missiles and he knew about guidance systems, and he 
talked freely about anything. It was almost as if he had an 
ordinary kind of job." Ruina, appropriately, forwarded the Is- 
raeli's information in a written report to Spurgeon Keeny at 
ACDA. "Some people [in the intelligence community] thought 
he was telling it like it was," Keeny said of the Israeli's intelli- 
gence. "The message is 'We've got a huge system that's more 
sophisticated than you think.' The guy said it [the September 22 
flash] was a joint Israeli-South African attempt." 

Keeny, confronted with the potentially explosive intelli- 


gence about what had happened and who had been involved, 
remained loyal to the Carter presidency and dismissed the re- 
port as nonsense. "I concluded that it was very questionable," 
he acknowledged. "I took it with a grain of salt." His colleagues 
in the White House, Keeny said, shared his view that Ruina's 
postgraduate student was peddling Israeli disinformation. The 
information was not made known to the intelligence commu- 
nity or to Ruina's colleagues on the panel. It stayed buried in 
the bureaucracy. 

There were a few government experts on nonproliferation 
policy who were convinced that Frank Press and Spurgeon 
Kenny made the right choice in seeking to mitigate the impact 
of a South African-Israeli nuclear test. "My belief is that the 
conclusion of the Ruina panel was the right conclusion for that 
time," one nonproliferation official said. "What do you do? 
Look at the issues involved — apartheid, Camp David, NPT, hu- 
man rights, dealing with the Indians [on nuclear proliferation], 
stopping reprocessing worldwide. You would have do some- 
thing strong, especially to Israel, but there was a large segment 
of the population that Carter couldn't alienate." 

The American intelligence community had done far better 
in its reporting on the South African test — the CIA insisted in 
internal estimates throughout 1979 and 1980 that there had been 
a test — but it basically remained in the dark about the sophisti- 
cation of the Israeli nuclear program. In 1980, the Agency pub- 
lished another Special National Intelligence Estimate (SNIE) 
on Israeli capability and came up with essentially the same 
numbers as Carl Duckett had produced in 1974. Israel, the CIA 
said, had manufactured at least twenty and as many as thirty 
nuclear warheads. The new estimate, however, was much more 
comprehensive than previous studies. The CIA was able to re- 
port that the Israelis had upgraded the reactor to increase its 
output and also improved the reactor's cooling capacity — clear 
signs that a greater amount of plutonium for nuclear weapons 
was being generated. There was no longer any doubt, the esti- 
mate said, that Israel had completed construction of a chemical 
reprocessing plant — but just where and how was not known. 
"It was the first serious estimate," one Carter administration 
official said, "and it enabled the people in the field to really look 


out for what Israel had." Even so, the CIA report seriously 
underestimated the number of Israeli warheads and the sophis- 
tication of its nuclear operation. Sometimes facts were strained 
to keep the numbers low. The KH-11, with its brilliant photog- 
raphy, had captured an Israeli nuclear missile storage site and 
the experts at the National Photographic Interpretation Center 
(NPIC) had been able to count ten items that were subse- 
quently confirmed as nuclear warheads. No one had ever seen 
an Israeli warhead before, and the intelligence community 
chose to take the fact that only ten warheads were seen, one 
official recalled, "as confirmation of our guesses. We thought 
the pictures were extraordinary, but decided that they didn't 
add anything new. It was consistent with our numbers." 

The 1980 CIA estimate had been ordered by Deputy Under 
Secretary of State Joseph S. Nye, Jr., who emerged as the 
Carter administration's key — and highly progressive — adviser 
on nonproliferation policy. Nye acknowledged that coping 
with the Israeli bomb was a low priority under Jimmy Carter. 
"There wasn't much that could be done," Nye said. "The Israe- 
lis had already done it. It was not something you could make a 
demarche [diplomatic protest] about. The question is: do you 
make a big hullaballoo about it?" 

The answer was no. 


Israel's Nuclear Spy 

For many Americans, Jonathan Jay Pollard is the 
American Jew who spied for Israel out of misguided loyalty, a 
man who believed that his documents and information would 
make Israel more secure in its war against international terror- 
ism. When arrested in November 1985, he claimed he had been 
turning over secret documents — many of which, he main- 
tained, should have been provided to Israel by the United 
States — for only fourteen months. The Israeli government 
apologized for its spying and insisted that the recruitment of 
Pollard was an aberration, an unauthorized "rogue" operation. 
Pollard is now serving a life sentence for espionage. 

Pollard indeed spied for Israel out of misguided loyalty — and 
for money — but none of the other widely held beliefs about the 
case is true. He was Israel's first nuclear spy. 

Pollard, who began working in 1979 as a civilian employee of 
U.S. Navy intelligence, offered to supply Israel with intelli- 
gence as early as 1980, but was not recruited as an operative 
until the fall of 1981, three years earlier than he and the Israeli 
government have admitted. He was then working as an intelli- 
gence specialist with the Navy's Field Operations Intelligence 
Office. At the height of his activity, in 1984 and 1985, one of his 
main assignments was the gathering of American intelligence 
relevant to Israel's nuclear targeting of the oil fields and Soviet 
military installations in southern Russia, a fact that was hidden 
from Justice Department investigators and prosecutors by Is- 
raeli officials. 

Pollard has insisted in all of his Justice Department interro- 
gations that his spying did not begin until July 1984, after a 


social meeting with Israeli Air Force Colonel Aviem Sella, one 
of his heroes, who had been involved in Israel's 1981 bombing of 
the Iraqi nuclear reactor at Osirak. In fact, Sella was one of the 
Israeli Air Force's leading nuclear bombing and targeting ex- 
perts and was specifically assigned to serve as Pollard's handler. 
The nuclear targeting data supplied by Pollard included top- 
secret American intelligence on the location of Soviet military 
targets, as well as specific data on the Soviet means for protect- 
ing those targets, by concealment or hardening of the sites. 
Pollard also gave the Israelis American intelligence on Soviet 
air defenses, especially the feared SA-5 surface-to-air missile 
system, which was so effective against U.S. B-52S in the Viet- 
nam War. Pollard eventually even turned over a copy of the 
U.S. intelligence community's annual review of the Soviet stra- 
tegic arms system, known as the 11-38 and considered — because 
of its appendices dealing with satellite photography, communi- 
cation intercepts, radar intelligence, and agent reports — to be 
one of the most sensitive documents in the U.S. government. 
Pollard also provided Israel with the codes for American diplo- 
matic communications, enabling Israel's signals intelligence 
agency to intercept cables and backchannel messages to and 
from the office of Samuel W. Lewis, the well-informed U.S. 
ambassador who had been assigned to Israel in 1977. In all, ac- 
cording to federal prosecutors, Pollard provided Israel with 
eighteen hundred documents — an estimated 500,000 pages — be- 
fore his arrest. 

The top political officials of Israel, including Shimon Peres, 
Yitzhak Rabin, and Yitzhak Shamir, understood that there was 
a high-level source inside the United States. In fact, some of the 
most important Pollard documents were retyped and sanitized 
by Israeli intelligence officials and then made available to the 
Soviet Union as a gesture of Israeli goodwill, at the specific 
instructions of Yitzhak Shamir, a longtime advocate of closer 
Israeli-Soviet ties. All of this was successfully hidden by the Is- 
raeli government after Pollard's arrest and subsequent plea bar- 
gain. Israel still continues to depict the Pollard affair as a rogue 
operation that was conducted without high-level involvement. 

The Pollard story actually begins with the U.S.-Israeli meet- 


ings that took place inside the Reagan White House in Septem- 
ber 1981, three months after the raid on Osirak. Ariel Sharon, 
newly named by Menachem Begin as minister of defense, had 
come to Washington with Begin to present a far-reaching 
agenda for U.S.-Israeli strategic cooperation. Israel would be- 
come America's military partner — and military arm — in the 
Middle East and the Persian Gulf, and serve as a depository for 
pre-positioned arms and ammunition for American armed 
forces. The Israelis' most eagerly awaited meeting took place in 
the cabinet room with President Reagan and his top advisers, 
including Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger, Secretary of 
State Alexander Haig, and National Security Adviser Richard 

Sam Lewis, as the U.S. ambassador to Israel, also was at the 
meeting. "Begin said, 'Mr. President, we share the same view 
of the Communist menace. We should formalize our relation- 
ship. I suggest a formal alliance.' Reagan said yes," Lewis re- 
counted. "Everyone else was shocked. Begin then said, 'Mr. 
President, I'd like to ask Minister Sharon to outline to you our 
ideas.' Sharon then gave a half-hour outline about how the 
American and Israeli strategic interest should be established. 
Even Al Haig [a strong supporter of Israel] was turning green. 
Dick Allen and the rest of the White House staff were also 
turning green. Cap [Weinberger] turned purple. I thought he'd 

Sharon's plan, as outlined at the cabinet-room meeting, also 
called for joint use of airfields and Navy ports. One significant 
aspect was shared intelligence, including formal Israeli access 
to the KH-11 satellite, desperately sought by Israel — as most of 
the Americans at the cabinet-room meeting did not understand 
— for its nuclear targeting of the Soviet Union. 

At the end of Sharon's presentation, Begin turned to the 
President, whose reactions were not discernible, and said, ac- 
cording to Lewis, " 'Why don't we ask our two defense minis- 
ters to work it out.' I thought Cap would faint." 

Over the next few months, Weinberger proceeded to "entan- 
gle" Sharon in a negotiation, Lewis recalled, that "turned out a 
mouse." There would be no joint U.S.-Israeli bases in the Mid- 


die East, and Israel would not get the access it wanted to Amer- 
ican satellite intelligence. Sharon also was told that Israel 
would not be permitted a receiving station in Tel Aviv for the 
real-time KH-11 photography. 

Sharon initially resisted any curtailing of his strategic plan, 
and he was ready to fight for it, but Begin, Lewis explained, 
was eager "to formalize an alliance with the United States — 
especially after the Carter years." Sharon eventually was forced 
to accept the watered-down American version, which he vehe- 
mently opposed and then had to defend publicly before the 
Knesset. He remained loyal to his prime minister and did his 
bidding. There were bigger fish to fry. 

Over the next few months, Sharon found a way to carry out 
his strategic goals without the help of Washington. He led 
Israel, with the support of Begin, into an invasion of Lebanon 
in an effort to destroy the Palestine Liberation Organization 
and use Israel's military dominance to change the political 
structure of the Middle East. Israel would carry the fight, un- 
der Sharon's plan, to the outskirts of Beirut, serving as an anti- 
Syrian blocking force while its Lebanese Christian allies, the 
Phalangists, cleaned out the city of PLO followers. But the 
Phalangists failed to move, and the Israeli Air Force was called 
upon to begin the bombing of Beirut. Instead of victory, there 
was impasse, as five hundred Israeli soldiers were killed along 
with more than ten thousand Palestinians and Lebanese, some 
in the shocking massacre at the Palestinian refugee camps in 
Sabra and Shatila. 

Before carrying out this plan, Sharon needed to control Is- 
rael's intelligence services and its "Temple" weapons — the nu- 
clear arsenal. Men loyal to him and his strategic goals were put 
into key positions. One of the first of the Old Guard to be 
shoved out was Binyamin Blumberg, who had served since the 
1950s as head of the Office of Special Tasks, widely known in 
the early 1980s by its Hebrew acronym, LAKAM. The new 
head of LAKAM was a Sharon crony and long-time clandestine 
operative named Rafael (Rafi) Eitan, who was then also serving 
as Begin's special assistant for counterterrorism. He would 
keep both jobs. The ambitious Eitan, known throughout Israel 


as "Rafi the stinker,"* had participated in the i960 kidnapping 
of Adolf Eichmann in Buenos Aires and was a veteran of many 
operations inside the Arab world. He had been forced to re- 
sign, nonetheless, from Mossad years earlier, and was bitter 
about his stunted career and the failure of Mossad and Israel's 
other intelligence agencies to cooperate with his counterterror- 
ism office. 

Sharon did not hide his political agenda, but publicly spelled it 
out on many occasions after leaving the Israeli Army in 1973. 
His major goals included the overthrow of King Hussein of 
Jordan and the transformation of that country into a Palestin- 
ian state, to which Palestinian refugees would be "transferred" 
— or driven. A few weeks after his return from Washington in 
the early fall of 1981, Sharon called together the senior officer 
corps of the Israeli Defense Force and told them for the first 
time about his specific plans to put his political agenda into 
effect — Israel was going to invade Lebanon. One officer who 
was present recalled that he and others were dismayed to hear 
Sharon "talk about the need to go to Lebanon and destroy the 
'capital of terrorism.' " He talked of the long reach of the IDF 
and the need — "not in such words," the officer said — "to 
change regimes in the Arab world." The Israeli officer, a for- 
mer intelligence specialist, further recalled Sharon's talk about 
the "need to change the structure of Israeli intelligence." 

"I was sitting with a bunch of brigadiers [generals]," the of- 
ficer added, "and I said, 'He's going to take us to war in the 
Middle East.' There was nervous laughter all around." 

There was one more distinct element in the Sharon briefing: 
"He returned [from Washington] anti-American, in a way I'd 
never detected before. He gave us his impression of Washing- 
ton. He said, 'Americans treat us like an aircraft carrier — a 
floating base. They don't understand our real significance: 
we're not one aircraft carrier. We are twenty aircraft carriers. 
We are much more important than they think. We can take the 
Middle East with us whenever we go.' " It was a strange and 

* Eitan's nickname arose from his habit of refusing to change his socks while fight- 
ing in Israel's War of Independence in 1948. 


unsettling performance, the officer thought, punctuated by 
Sharon's threat to "court-martial" anyone who publicly dis- 
cussed what he had said. 

On December 15, Sharon, in a speech read by Aharon Yariv 
(Sharon was not present) at a conference at the Institute of 
Strategic Studies at Tel Aviv University, suggested that the 
United States was indirectly responsible for the growing threat 
posed by Moscow in the Middle East: "Soviet advances in the 
region have been made possible during the seventies because of 
the U.S. strategic passivity in those years and the freedom of 
action the Soviet Union has enjoyed. . . ." The increased So- 
viet freedom of maneuver in the Middle East and Africa, he 
added, "endangers the stability of the region and vital interest 
of the free world. I want to stress this point with all possible 
emphasis. The great danger to the free world in the eighties 
would be to continue [to] indulge in the wishful thinking and 
the inaction which have characterized Western attitudes to So- 
viet gradual expansion during the last two decades." 

Sharon called for Israel to broaden its national security inter- 
ests "to include, beyond the Middle East and Red Sea, states 
like Turkey, Iran, and Pakistan, and regions such as the Persian 
Gulf and central and northern Africa." The new minister of 
defense was telling his nation that Israel's national security 
now depended on its ability to influence events in a huge area 
that stretched from Kenya in the south to Turkey, and from 
Mauritania in the west to Pakistan. 

There was one sure way to meet the new and expanded So- 
viet threat: increase Israeli reliance on its nuclear arsenal. But 
that could not be accomplished without KH-11 satellite infor- 
mation and other intelligence from the United States. 

As Sharon was beginning to redesign Israel's strategic pos- 
ture, Washington finally got some hard intelligence on the Is- 
raeli nuclear arsenal. It was a "walk-in," an Israeli scientist or 
technician who had worked at Dimona and who, as Mordecai 
Vanunu would do five years later, had taken some photographs 
of the underground storage bunkers there. "It was our first 
look inside," one senior intelligence official recalled. "What got 
our attention was the fact that he was inside a storage facility." 
The photographs showed Israeli warheads individually stored 


in heavy lead compartments, very similar to those used in 
American nuclear storage igloos: "We actually saw the weapons 
lined up there." 

The men handling the defector were experts in weapons pro- 
duction and knew they were seeing the real thing — thermonu- 
clear warheads. The defector told them that Israel had more 
than one hundred weapons in storage. "Our thought was 'Holy 
shit!' " one involved American recalled. " 'How could we have 
been so wrong?' We always said, 'So the Israelis got ten war- 
heads? Okay. So what? Anybody can build those.' All of a sud- 
den we learned they'd become sophisticated. It blew 
everybody's mind. Why do you need a thermonuclear device? 
We know twenty KTs [kilotons] will take out Cairo. [Israel] 
was more advanced and better than any of our people had pre- 
sumed it could be — clean bombs, better warheads. The White 
House was briefed, but not in terms that I gave you because it 
was a real black eye for the [intelligence] community." 

The defector also provided specific data about warhead size 
and delivery systems — "we got lots of paper" — that convinced 
the Americans that the Israelis were capable of delivering a 
nuclear warhead with accuracy. It was clear from the defector's 
data, the American said, that the Israelis "can do anything we 
or the Soviets can do." 

There was the usual disconnect, as there had been with all 
Israeli nuclear information since the late 1950s, and the defec- 
tor's data was not shared with the State Department's prolifer- 
ation experts nor with any of the analysts of Z Division at 
Livermore, who were seen as liberals. "You bet your ass it was 
kept away from the people at Z Division," the Reagan adminis- 
tration official said. "We were paranoid that they'd get it any- 
way." The defector's information was left dangling, and those 
Americans who should have known the extent and nature of 
Israel's nuclear capability did not. 

Jonathan Pollard was an unhappy child in South Bend, Indi- 
ana. The son of a professor at Notre Dame University, he was 
tormented and beaten in grade school for being Jewish. He told 
an interviewer that the "turning point" of his life came as a 
result of the Six-Day War, when he was thirteen. Israel's vie- 


tory was "emotionally intoxicating" and triggered his lifelong 
obsession with Israeli security, and his fantasies of being part 
of it. He told fellow undergraduates at Stanford University 
that he had dual citizenship and was a colonel in the Israeli 
Army. Bragging and fanciful claims marked his years at 
Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University in 
Boston, where he enrolled in 1977. He failed to earn his degree, 
and also failed in an attempt to join the CIA. In early 1981, 
Pollard sought a job as a defense analyst with the American 
Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), one of Washington's 
most effective lobbies. AIPAC officials found his bragging 
about access to top-secret information inappropriate and 
"weird"; one AIPAC official recalled that Pollard's story 
sounded "too incredible to be real. So we got rid of him." 
There was a feeling that Pollard was part of a "sting" operation 
attempting to set up AIPAC. He was clearly trouble. 

Pollard also had been offering his services to Israel in 1980 
and 1981, but no serious Israeli intelligence official would con- 
sider the recruitment of an openly pro-Israel American Jew 
who worked for the American intelligence community. There 
also was an unwritten law prohibiting the recruitment of any 
American Jew, pro-Israel or not. It was just too high-risk. 

Pollard's repeated offers to spy for the State of Israel had 
unnerved the Israeli intelligence community. "He was turned 
back in 1980," a former Mossad operative said. "He's crazy; he's 
Jewish — 'Don't take him.' It's like recruiting a Communist to 
spy [in the United States] for the KGB. He's automatically a 

Rafi Eitan, the aggressive new director of LAKAM, decided 
to change the rules after the unproductive meetings with the 
President and his senior aides in Washington. He agreed with 
Sharon that the United States was holding back on intelligence 
that was essential to Israeli security — such as the KH-11 pho- 
tography. "It was a basic suspicion," recalled one Israeli who 
had worked in Mossad with Eitan. "Whatever you get is not 
the real stuff — there is even stuff beyond." 

Ari Ben-Menashe and his colleagues in the External Rela- 
tions Department were also appalled when Eitan recruited Pol- 
lard in October 1981. Pollard was a member of a Navy team that 


visited Israel that fall to coordinate the exchange of intelligence 
with the Israeli Navy. Such visits were routine, and the Israelis 
had worked out a novel way of making their counterparts feel 
welcome: each American would be invited to an Israeli officer's 
home for dinner. "Guess who shows up at Pollard's dinner?" 
asked Ben-Menashe. "Rafi. He bagged him [Pollard] in one 
night. He didn't even pay him very well — just gives him this 
big story." Eitan needed Pollard, Ben-Menashe explained, "to 
access papers he already had knowledge of. He needed an ana- 
lyst." His recruitment was viewed by military intelligence as 
"the worst fucking thing Rafi could have done." 

By early 1982, Reuven "Rudi" Yerdor had been promoted to 
brigadier general and was in charge of Unit 8200, the Israeli 
communications intelligence service. Yerdor was a senior ana- 
lyst who worked closely with his counterparts in the American 
National Security Agency, traveling to Washington every three 
months for liaison meetings. Yerdor's official title was deputy 
chief of staff for military intelligence in the Israeli Defense 
Force; his immediate superior was Major General Yehoshua 
Saguy, the head of Aman (military intelligence) and a deputy to 
Sharon who, like Sharon, was dismissed after the Sabra and 
Shatila massacre. Every senior officer understood that Saguy, as 
head of military intelligence, was directly responsible under 
military procedure for briefing the prime minister. But Saguy 
was known throughout the upper echelon of the Israeli mili- 
tary for his reluctance to challenge Sharon and his willingness 
to step aside and permit Sharon to be the main conduit for 
military intelligence to Begin and the Israeli cabinet. 

Over the 1981-82 New Year's holiday, Yerdor was summoned 
by Saguy and given two packets of documents to evaluate: 
"Tell me what you think." The first set dealt with highly tech- 
nical American intelligence describing a Soviet military system 
in the hands of the Arabs. The second documents, far less inter- 
esting to Yerdor, were copies of the daily and weekly summa- 
ries of worldwide NSA intercepts. "Rudi tells him the 
technical stuff is terrific," an Israeli official recalled, "but that 
'we'll never get it in this form from the U.S.' As for the in- 
tercepts, 'These are less useful.' " Yerdor, as he later explained 


to a colleague, assumed that his government's intelligence ser- 
vices had recruited two people inside the United States — a step 
he found deplorable and shortsighted. Eventually, the material 
began flowing "in huge quantities," as Yerdor told his friend, 
and Yerdor "had to assign a special team to read and analyze 

In February, Israel learned that the Soviets had decided to 
upgrade the Syrian air defense command and supply it with 
three battalions of SA-5S, their most advanced high-altitude 
antiaircraft missile. It was the first appearance in the Middle 
East of the system. The missiles remained under Soviet control, 
but they were assigned to protect Syria's short-range SS-21 mis- 
siles, which were capable of striking Israel. They also posed a 
threat to Israel's most advanced F-15 and F-16 fighter-bomber 
aircraft. It was an alarming escalation. An official request to the 
United States for intelligence on the capabilities of the SA-5 
was made, but Yerdor was told, as he anticipated, that there 
was very little intelligence available on the system; it was too 
sensitive. "Two days later," an Israeli friend of Yerdor's said, 
"out of the blue sky, Rudi gets the full [U.S.] intelligence on the 
SA-5, which makes it clear that it is not as good as we feared." 
As for the source of the report, as Yerdor told his colleague, 
"this doesn't come" through normal channels. 

In mid-May 1982, three weeks before the invasion of Leba- 
non, Yerdor's office was handed an astonishing assortment of 
invaluable American technical data about the air defense sys- 
tems in Syria. It included materials that the U.S. intelligence 
community had never supplied to Israel: detailed information 
on side-looking radar, electronic maps, and precise frequency 
of operations for Syria's SA-6, SA-8, and advanced SA-3 surface- 
to-air missile systems. Yerdor again raised questions with Gen- 
eral Saguy: "We don't get these materials and if we asked for it, 
we wouldn't get it." The Israeli Air Force, utilizing electronic 
countermeasures (ECM), would demolish the Syrian Air Force 
and destroy more than seventy Syrian missile launchers during 
the Lebanon war. 

There was much more. "NSA intercepts begin arriving," 
one fully informed Israeli recalled. Rafi Eitan himself showed 
up at Yerdor's office and "throws him a daily intercept" dealing 


with the diplomatic activities of Sam Lewis. Yerdor told Eitan: 
"I wouldn't touch it with a ten-foot pole." Lewis, a career dip- 
lomat who would serve as ambassador until 1985, was widely 
known as a good friend of Israel but also was strongly opposed 
to Ariel Sharon and his policies. 

Yerdor had little respect for Eitan, and worried about the 
long-range implications of Israeli intelligence activities in the 
United States, its best ally. He was convinced Eitan was driven 
by his personal ambition and his need to settle old scores with 
Yitzhak Hofi, the head of Mossad, and Avraham Shalom, Shin 
Beth's director.* He also was convinced, at least until the Pol- 
lard scandal became public, that Eitan had recruited two or 
more Americans; it wasn't clear how one person could have 
had as much access to such a variety of highly classified mate- 
rial as was flowing across his desk. Pollard, Yerdor learned 
later, had been cleared — despite his openly pro-Israel views — 
for access to the most sensitive intelligence in the U.S. govern- 
ment, and was using his office in Navy intelligence to place 
orders with abandon to classified archives throughout the 
Washington area. 

Ben-Menashe, like Yerdor, remained convinced — even after 
Pollard's arrest and guilty plea — that Eitan had been working 
with more than one American. Under normal conditions, 
things were hectic in Ben-Menashe's Office of External Rela- 
tions: Eitan's LAKAM operations in the United States pro- 
duced a steady stream of routinely transferred scientific and 
technical documents — similar highly classified U.S. material 
had been arriving since the late 1950s, when the agency was set 
up. Now, illicitly obtained intelligence was flying so volumi- 
nously from LAKAM into Israeli intelligence that a special 
code name, jumbo, was added to the security markings already 
on the documents. There were strict orders, Ben-Menashe re- 
called: "Anything marked jumbo was not supposed to be dis- 
cussed with your American counterparts." 

* Hofi also was a critic of Ariel Sharon, and had been since they had served together 
as paratroopers in the Suez War. His dislike of Sharon manifested itself in unprece- 
dented public criticism, reported in the Israeli press after the invasion of Lebanon, in 
which Hofi, former chief of staff Mordecai Gur, and two other retired army generals 
accused Sharon of insubordination and cowardice under fire on repeated occasions in 
the 1950s, including the Suez War. 


After the Sabra and Shatila massacre, Sharon remained in 
Begin's cabinet, but as a minister without portfolio, and Moshe 
Arens, a former aeronautical engineer, was named defense 
minister. Israeli politics were in more disarray than usual over 
the next year; Menachem Begin's wife died in the spring, and a 
guilt-ridden Begin, who was in Washington at the time of her 
death, fell into a severe depression. He resigned as prime minis- 
ter in September 1983 and was replaced by Yitzhak Shamir, a 
former senior Mossad operative and conservative member of 
the Likud coalition. Neither Labor nor Likud achieved a ma- 
jority in the national elections in May 1984. A national unity 
coalition was negotiated over the next few months, with 
Shimon Peres and Shamir sharing power: Peres would serve as 
prime minister and Shamir as foreign minister until September 
1986, when they would trade jobs. Yitzhak Rabin would serve 
as minister of defense throughout. Peres, Rabin, and Shamir 
became known as Israel's ruling troika. 

Throughout the turmoil, Rafi Eitan stayed on the job — and 
so did Jonathan Pollard. A pattern for reporting was estab- 
lished: Pollard's intelligence would be summarized by Eitan 
and presented, without analysis or assessment, in a memoran- 
dum to the prime minister and minister of defense. By then, 
Pollard's material included essential KH-11 imagery as well as 
reporting and assessments from U.S. embassies and intelli- 
gence operatives inside Saudi Arabia, Jordan, and Egypt; such 
material is known in the diplomatic community as "third- 
party" information, and is never provided to outsiders. The top 
leadership, of course, knew what was going on. One former 
Israeli intelligence official recalled that Peres and Rabin, both 
very sophisticated in the handling of intelligence, were quick 
to ask, as the official put it, "Where are we getting this stuff?" 
They were told, the Israeli added, that Israeli intelligence " 'has 
a penetration into the U.S. intelligence community.' Both men 
let it go. No one said: 'Stop it here and now.' " Moshe Arens 
was viewed as far less sophisticated than Peres and Rabin about 
the nuances of intelligence. He did not raise any questions — 
u too dumb to ask," said the Israeli — but he was briefed on the 
American penetration by "intelligence guys who wanted to 
protect their ass." 


After Pollard's arrest, the top leadership denied having any 
knowledge of his activities, and two internal commissions au- 
thorized by the cabinet and the Knesset that investigated the 
scandal also cleared the leadership of any direct knowledge. 
Pollard himself seemed to know better. In a pleading filed be- 
fore he was given his life sentence in March 1987, he argued 
that his Israeli handlers told him that "Israel's dependence 
upon a 'special source' " had been mentioned at Israeli cabinet 
meetings. He also said that he was routinely provided with lists 
of intelligence items wanted; the lists were coordinated and 
"prioritized" by the heads of all the various military intelli- 
gence services. Much of the material he supplied, he stated, was 
satellite photographs and communication intercepts — material 
that any Israeli official would have to know "was not being 
transferred through official channels." Pollard's handlers in the 
United States, who included Aviem Sella by mid-1984, had even 
arranged for the Israeli government to provide, via its embassy 
in Washington, the most sophisticated photocopying machines 
for the reproduction of top-secret documents, including KH-11 
satellite photographs. The photocopying machines arrived 
with special metal shielding to prevent the interception of elec- 
tronic emanations. 

Ari Ben-Menashe was aware of Rudi Yerdor's distress about 
the spying: "Yerdor was bitching about the fact that Eitan was 
compromising Israel's relations with the United States." Ben- 
Menashe understood much more: he had personal knowledge 
that Yitzhak Shamir, while serving as prime minister in 1983 
and 1984, had authorized some of the Pollard material to be 
sanitized, retyped, and turned over to Soviet intelligence offi- 

Ben-Menashe, an Iraqi Jew, had close ties to Shamir; in 1987, 
two years before his arrest in the United States and subsequent 
disaffection from Israel, he left the External Relations Depart- 
ment and went to work directly as an intelligence adviser for" 
Shamir, then again serving as prime minister. In essence, he 
said, he conducted secret operations for Shamir. It was a step 
up. Ben-Menashe's ties to Shamir also were familial; his father 
served with Shamir in the fervently anti-British Stern Gang 


before the 1948 War of Independence.* Shamir, who viscerally 
disliked the United States, Ben-Menashe said, also "couldn't 
stand Begin and his moralistic approach to foreign relations. 
The first thing he [Shamir] decides" — upon becoming prime 
minister — "without any hesitation is to open the Soviet bloc to 
Israel." There was an immediate impact in the intelligence com- 
munity, Ben-Menashe added: "A directive to the Mossad rep- 
resentative in Bucharest [Romania] to exchange information, 
to open things up. Nobody in the intelligence community would 
dare to do it without the approval of the prime minister." 

The Soviets recognized the overture, Ben-Menashe said, and 
late in the year invited Israel to an intelligence conference in 
India to discuss the Pakistani nuclear weapons facility at 
Kahuta. In early 1984, while still acting prime minister, Shamir 
"authorized the exchange of intelligence with the Soviets on 
U.S. weapons systems. Suddenly," Ben-Menashe said, "we're 
exchanging information." Raw American intelligence was not 
handed over directly to the Soviets, but was reworked in an 
attempt to minimize the damage to American methods and 
agents. The exchange of intelligence paid an immediate divi- 
dend, beyond the easing of diplomatic tensions and the in- 
creased flow of Soviet immigrants to Israel, Ben-Menashe said. 
In late 1984 the Polish government permitted him, as a repre- 
sentative of the State of Israel, to travel to Warsaw and negoti- 
ate the sale of AK-47S and SA-7S, among other weapons, for 
shipment to Iran. 

* Yair Stern considered the Jews' fight against the British to be more important than 
the world war against the Axis powers. The organization's leaders made a brief at- 
tempt in 1940 to broker an agreement with the Third Reich that would permit the 
illegal passage to Palestine of Jews from Germany and Europe to continue the fight 
against the British, whose war effort was supported by David Ben-Gurion and even the 
Irgun, a rival terrorist group that would be taken over by Menachem Begin in 1943. 
(Irgun's founder, David Raziel, in fact was serving as a high-ranking officer in British 
intelligence and wearing a British uniform when he was killed while on a mission in 
Iraq in 1941.) The Stern group, resisting pressure to fight with the Allies, sought direct 
negotiations at one point with Otto von Hentig, a representative of the German for- 
eign ministry. Nothing came of it. In his memoirs, von Hentig wrote of meeting with a 
Jewish delegation (from Stern) that offered to cooperate with the Nazis and, in essence, 
go to war against their pro-Allied Zionist compatriots, if Hitler guaranteed the post- 
war independence of Jewish Palestine. Similar talks were held by Stern representatives 
with Benito Mussolini's Italy, calling on the Italians to provide transit camps and 
passage for Jewish refugees, as well as arms, in return for the Stern Gang's collabora- 
tion in expanding Italy's influence in the Middle East. 


Ben-Menashe's account might seem almost too startling to be 
believed, had it not been subsequently amplified by a second 
Israeli, who cannot be named. The Israeli said that Pollard ma- 
terial was sanitized and dictated to a secretary before being 
turned over to the Soviets. Some material was directly pro- 
vided to Yevgeni M. Primakov, the Soviet foreign ministry spe- 
cialist on the Middle East who met publicly and privately with 
Shamir while he was prime minister. Shamir's turning to the 
Soviets was consistent with his personal and political beliefs, 
the Israeli said. While in Mossad in the 1950s and 1960s, Shamir 
was known for his efforts to improve relationships with his 
KGB counterparts. He left the intelligence service in the mid- 
1960s to join Begin's Herut Party and became speaker of the 
Knesset in 1977, when Begin became prime minister. He 
worked diligently to develop new ties with the Soviet Union, 
which he envisioned as a means of balancing, or offsetting, Is- 
rael's traditional reliance on the U.S. "Shamir has always been 
fascinated with authority and strong regimes," the Israeli said, 
"and very suspicious of democratic governments. He sees the 
U.S. as very soft, bourgeois, materialistic and effete." 

For Shamir, the Israeli added, the relaying of the Pollard 
information to the Soviets was his way of demonstrating that 
Israel could be a much more dependable and important collab- 
orator in the Middle East than the "fickle" Arabs: "What Arab 
could give you this?" 

Shamir's unilateral decision to forward the material to the 
Soviets is now widely known in leading political circles in 
Israel, the Israeli source said. Rabin, who was close to the 
United States, went into a virtual "state of shock" upon being 
told, but kept his peace. Rabin and Peres, and their political 
advisers, understood that Shamir's action, if exposed, would 
mean the end of the increasingly shaky Likud coalition. They 
also realized, the Israeli source said, that the overall Israeli- 
United States relationship "would be at risk. So they kept 
quiet." Some officials of Mapam, the left-wing labor party with 
close ties to the Soviet bloc, also learned of Shamir's action and 
considered leaking that information to the press. The Mapam 
leaders "decided it was too explosive." 

For his part, Shamir and his principals argued to their col- 


leagues that his goal was to end the long-standing enmity be- 
tween Israel and the Soviet Union and initiate some kind of 
strategic cooperation. Shamir also claimed, the Israeli said, that 
"he was not doing the United States such a disservice because 
he's telling the Soviets that they cannot hide — the Americans 
can see and hear everything." 

One senior American intelligence official confirmed that there 
have been distinct losses of human and technical intelligence 
collection ability inside the Soviet Union that have been attrib- 
uted, after extensive analysis, to Pollard. "The Israeli objective 
[in the handling of Pollard] was to gather what they could and 
let the Soviets know that they have a strategic capability — for 
their survival and to get their people out [of the Soviet 
Union]," one former CIA official said. "Where it hurts us is our 
agents being rolled up and our ability to collect technical intel- 
ligence being shut down. When the Soviets found out what's 
being passed" — in the documents supplied by Pollard to the 
Israelis — "they shut down the source." 

The Israeli officials most tarnished by the scandal were Rafi 
Eitan and Aviem Sella, but Eitan did not suffer financially. He 
was subsequently named to a high administrative position with 
the Israel Chemicals Company, the largest state-owned enter- 
prise in Israel. His surprising appointment was authorized by 
none other than Ariel Sharon, who had been named minister of 
trade and industry in 1984. As for Sella, he was promoted to 
brigadier general after his return from the United States and 
assigned as commander of Tel Nof, the site of Israel's nuclear- 
ready air force squadron. After American protests, Sella in- 
stead was named head of the Israeli Defense Force staff college. 
His prospects for further advancement in the air force were 
bleak, and Sella retired. 

"They all decided Rafi would take the fall," one knowledge- 
able American diplomat said, "and Sharon would take care of 
him." The American, who conducted his own private inquiry 
into the Pollard affair shortly after it became known, said that 
the Israeli leadership agreed on a cover-up from the beginning, 
despite the huge political differences between the parties. 


"There is a national security doctrine in Israel that goes be- 
yond everything — protect our government," he added. "If they 
had allowed it [the investigation] to go deeper than Rafi, it'd 
have blown up the [ruling] coalition. There was nothing to 
gain for Israel or the Labor Party by saying anything." 

At one point, Rafi Eitan seemed to have second thoughts. He 
told an Israeli newspaper in early 1987, "All my actions, includ- 
ing the Pollard affair, were carried out with the knowledge of 
my superiors. I do not intend to be used as a sacrifice to cover 
up the knowledge and responsibility of others." (He changed 
his mind within a day, saying to an Israeli radio interviewer 
that all of the previously published statements attributed to 
him "were not made by me.") 

The one aspect of the Pollard story that no one wanted re- 
vealed revolved around Aviem Sella. Sella was perhaps Israel's 
top air force expert in nuclear targeting and the delivery of 
nuclear weapons: it was his job to make sure that Israel's nu- 
clear-armed F-16 aircraft could penetrate Soviet air defenses 
and reach their targets in the Soviet Union. Earlier in his ca- 
reer he had served as an F-4 pilot at Tel Nof, assigned to one of 
Israel's "black" — nuclear-capable — squadrons. Ariel Sharon's 
broadened view of Israeli national security and the Soviet 
threat had led to a dramatic upsurge in nuclear planning and 
nuclear targeting. The air force also was responsible for the 
advanced Jericho missile system, with its steadily increasing 
range. The new missile targets inside the Soviet Union re- 
quired increased intelligence, and Sella's mission was to help 
Pollard gather the essential information and then evaluate it. 
Israel would need the most advanced^ American intelligence on 
weather patterns and communication protocols, as well as data 
on emergency and alert procedures. Any American knowledge 
of the electromagnetic fields that lie between Israel and its 
main targets in the Soviet Union also was essential to the 
targeting of the Jericho. 

Sella's superb skill and knowledge of nuclear targeting 
blinded Eitan and the Israeli intelligence community to the 
fact that Sella was a pilot who knew nothing about running a 
covert operation. When Pollard did get into trouble in late 1985, 


Sella had nothing to offer him — Sella's main concern was flee- 
ing the United States as quickly as possible before he, too, was 
arrested and asked a lot of questions that neither he nor the 
Israeli government wanted asked. 

Those Israelis who know of the Sella mission and the reasons 
behind it also believe that Jonathan Pollard had to understand 
what he was doing. "Pollard knew it," said one Sella friend. 
"Of course he knew it. We didn't need Pollard to bring us 
photographs of the PLO headquarters in Tunis." (The Israeli 
was referring to Pollard's claim that his intelligence had helped 
plan Israel's 1985 bombing of the PLO offices in Tunis.) 

Pollard refused to cooperate with the U.S. Attorney's Office in 
Washington for six months before finally giving up Sella's 
name — and describing what he said was his involvement — as 
part of a plea bargain. It is not known whether the prosecutors 
in Washington realized at the time of the Pollard plea bargain 
that Sella's mission was linked to nuclear intelligence; nor is it 
even clear whether anyone in the U.S. government learned it 
later. Many of the government's submissions in the case, in- 
cluding an extensive presentation by Caspar Weinberger, were 
highly classified. 

The government acknowledged that few involved in the case 
told the truth. It was that awkward situation that led them to 
insist that Sella be extradited to the United States. The Israeli 
government refused, and Sella was indicted in absentia in 
March 1987, in the U.S. District Court in Washington. In June 
1990, Sella was declared a fugitive from justice. 

Since his retirement, Sella has given friends and colleagues 
an account of his involvement that is more credible, but still far 
short of the whole story. While in Israel, he was recruited, he 
has said, for the job of trying to control Pollard, who was 
drowning the Israeli intelligence bureaucracy in documents. 
By 1984, when Sella was approached, he had almost completed 
his requirement for a Ph.D. in computer science at New York 
University; the obvious thought was that his technical training 
would be an asset in evaluating and perhaps winnowing down 
Pollard's materials. Sella knew, as he told colleagues, that Pol- 
lard had been recruited long before 1984 — "the potato was in 


the oven," he said to one friend — but he was eager for the as- 
signment: running a spy as important as Pollard would make 
his own climb to the top inevitable. Before taking the assign- 
ment, he checked with his superior, Major General Amos 
Lapidot, the air force chief of staff. Lapidot assured him, Sella 
has said, that Pollard was not a rogue — and clearance for his 
new assignment had been obtained from Yitzhak Rabin, the 
minister of defense. Once involved, Sella complained to a 
friend that Pollard u was running crazy." The spy, Sella said, 
u was giving him things he didn't want and didn't need." 

Israel did make one direct attempt, nonetheless, to get the 
charges against the young colonel dismissed. In June 1986, 
shortly after Pollard gave up Sella's name, Israel hired Leonard 
Garment to represent the colonel. Garment, a former aide to 
Richard Nixon, was a prominent Washington attorney and pri- 
vate counsel to men such as former Attorney General Edwin 
Meese III. He also was a strong supporter of Israel, and under 
Nixon had occasionally become involved in high-level diplo- 

In late June, Garment flew to Tel Aviv to interview Sella and 
speak with Israeli officials. His goal was to try to find some 
common ground between Washington and the government of 
Israel; to settle the matter before it led to even more damaging 
press. Sella's advisers in Israel included Chaim Joseph Zadok, a 
former minister of justice and elder statesman of the Labor 
Party, and government officials. They proposed that a factual 
proffer be offered the U.S. Justice Department, describing Sel- 
la's involvement— or lack of involvement. The document 
claimed that Sella had done nothing more than meet socially 
with Pollard. And Sella said that upon learning over dinner 
that Pollard was interested in forwarding documents to Israel, 
his only response was to suggest that "Pollard deal directly 
with the appropriate agency." The Israeli position, as outlined 
to Garment, was that the United States had no case against the 
colonel; there wasn't the slightest indication of spying on his 
part. Garment saw many state leaders while in Israel and even 
had dinner at the home of Shimon Peres. All assured him that 
they knew nothing of the Pollard matter. 


After he had a long meeting with Sella and his brother in Tel 
Aviv, Garment began stalling for time; he refused to file the 
proffer, saying that it needed more work. Garment returned to 
Washington to try again to negotiate a diplomatic solution or 
find some way to come up with a document that could get his 
client off the hook without obstructing justice. After much 
communication back and forth, a six-man Israeli delegation ar- 
rived in Washington in August 1986 for a meeting with the 
Justice and State departments to resolve the issue. It was no 
ordinary group, but clear evidence that the necessity of pro- 
tecting Sella reached to the top of the Israeli government. Its 
members were Chaim Zadok, the former justice minister; Meir 
Rosenne, a former Mossad official who was the Israeli ambassa- 
dor to Washington; Rosenne's deputy, Elyakim Rubinstein, one 
of the brightest diplomats in Israel, who would become cabinet 
secretary; Ram Caspi, a prominent Labor Party lawyer and one 
of Shimon Peres's confidants; Avraham Shalom, the former 
head of Shin Beth (who had been forced to resign his post in 
late June because of cover-up charges in connection with the 
Shin Beth killing in 1984 of two Palestinian hijackers while in 
custody); and Hanan Bar-on, deputy director general of the 
Israeli foreign ministry. Caspi, Shalom, and Bar-on had been 
appointed by Peres immediately after Pollard's arrest to 
conduct an internal investigation. The three men reported 
within a week that Pollard was part of a rogue intelligence- 
gathering unit that operated without any government aware- 

Garment invited the six men to his home on the day before 
their meeting with Justice and State. They worked for hours 
on the proffer. Garment had drafted a memorandum on ob- 
struction of justice under U.S. law in an attempt to persuade 
the Israelis to stop insisting that he file the proffer as initially 
written. The meeting went on past midnight, with Garment's 
wife, Suzanne, then a well-known Washington columnist for 
the Wall Street Journal, put in charge of typing drafts of the 
disputed proffer. At one point, according to a witness (not Gar- 
ment), as Garment continued to demur, the inevitable question 
came: "What kind of a Jew are you?" Garment was incensed: 
"I'm an American citizen, too." What they wanted also made 
no sense in terms of protecting the client. Garment decided it 


was time to let them know what he knew. He retrieved his 
notes of the dinner conversation with Sella and read them to 
the group. The Israelis listened quietly and then asked for a 
few moments of privacy. When Garment returned, they de- 
manded the Sella notes. "These are my notes," Garment told 
them. They insisted. Garment held his ground. In that case, 
they said, "you're discharged." 

Garment lost his temper. He told the men that they would 
never get the Sella notes and warned: "If any of you make a 
move in my direction, I'll throw you in the pool." Everyone 
settled down. It was later agreed that Garment would with- 
draw from the case, but do so quietly. 

Garment's instinct for self-preservation — he was, after all, a 
survivor of the Nixon White House — was at its most acute. He 
did not know that Aviem Sella was a leading nuclear targeter, 
he did not know that U.S. nuclear targeting secrets were in- 
volved in the Pollard affair, and he did not know that three of 
the six men who negotiated with him over the Sella proffer had 
been involved in an internal investigation and cover-up of the 
Pollard scandal. What Garment did know, as he privately in- 
formed U.S. Attorney Joseph E. diGenova, who led the Pollard 
prosecution, and Mark M. Richard, a deputy assistant attorney 
general, was that he was leaving the case because he was not 
sure whether his client was Aviem Sella or the Israeli govern- 

With his withdrawal, the Israeli government ended its at- 
tempt to protect Sella — in effect, ending Sella's career. Sella, 
who retired from the air force in disillusionment and disap- 
pointment, remained in Israel, as of mid-1991 a fugitive from 
American justice. 


An Israeli Asset 

By October 1986, Jonathan Pollard had yet to be sen- 
tenced and there were many in the U.S. intelligence commu- 
nity who were convinced that he had one and perhaps many 
more accomplices inside the government — men or women who 
were supplying Israel with the identification of highly classi- 
fied documents that Pollard could then be assigned to retrieve. 
The hunt for "Mr. X," as the government called Pollard's al- 
leged accomplice, had only begun. 

Israel was in the news, and so was spying. The Sunday Times 
of London had every reason to anticipate that its October 5, 
1986, revelation about Dimona, based on its interviews with 
Mordecai Vanunu, would be a sensation. It was the first inside 
account of the Israeli nuclear establishment, based on a pub- 
licly named source. It also was another story of betrayal involv- 
ing Israel: Vanunu and Pollard were primarily driven not by 
financial gain (although both accepted money), but by the con- 
viction that they were doing the right thing. 

The intelligence communities of the world were riveted by 
the Sunday Times account. One key American nuclear intelli- 
gence official acknowledged that the Vanunu story and Pierre 
Pean's i982book on the early French involvement at Dimona 
"together presented the evidence that filled in all the question 
marks. What we and Z Division didn't know, they provided." 

But the press paid little attention. The Sunday Times's com- 
petitors on Fleet Street ignored the story, and so did much of 
the world's press. The Washington Post and the New York Times 
dismissed it in subsequent days with a few paragraphs buried 
inside their newspapers, and the major wire services treated it 
the same way. 


Jerry Oplinger, the former White House aide, was appalled 
by the failure of the press to understand the importance of 
Vanunu. "I couldn't believe those guys. There was nothing 
[significant] in the Times, Post, and Wall Street Journal " he said. 
"Everybody in the arms control business was amazed that 
there was nothing. To me and my close friends, it was really 
discouraging. Here is a fascinating and scary story, and even 
the press isn't interested." 

Peter Hounam, the primary reporter and writer of the 
Vanunu story, knew it was the most important of his career. 
He expected anything, except apathy. There were not even any 
calls from the major newspapers in the United States. It might 
have been different, Hounam knew, if Mordecai Vanunu had 
been available in person. The Sunday Times had worked out a 
careful public relations campaign to help promote the story. 
There was to be a news conference on the day of publication 
(the newspaper would also announce that Vanunu had agreed 
to write a book and that syndication rights had been sold to 
Stern, the West German news magazine). But Vanunu had 
dropped out of sight the week before, and the Sunday Times was 
unable to produce him when he was most needed. 

Vanunu, of course, had been duped by Israeli intelligence into 
leaving London on September 30 and lured to Rome, where he 
was abducted by the Mossad. His decision to walk away from 
the London newspaper world had followed publication of 
Vanunu's photograph in the Sunday Mirror, Britain's second- 
largest tabloid, and a hostile story the week before, on Septem- 
ber 28. Israeli officials were quoted claiming that Vanunu had 
been fired from Dimona the year before "for attempting to 
copy documents." An Israeli press attache added: "There is 
not, and there never has been, a scientist by this name working 
in nuclear research in Israel. I can confirm that a Mordecai 
Vanunu worked as a junior technician in the [Israeli] Atomic 
Energy Commission." The Sunday Mirror had attacked the 
credibility of Vanunu's photographs, quoting an unidentified 
nuclear weapons expert as saying that they could have been 
taken in an "egg factory." The Mirror also asked whether 


Vanunu's account was u a hoax, or even something more sinis- 
ter — a plot to discredit Israel." 

The article had been given a lurid headline: "Strange Case of 
Israel and the Nuclear Conman." The alleged con man in the 
headline was not Vanunu, but Vanunu's agent, Oscar E. Guer- 
rero, an opportunistic journalist from Colombia in South 
America who had befriended the hapless Vanunu in June, 
while he was still in exile in Australia. It was Guerrero who 
convinced Vanunu that his story and spectacular photographs 
were worth as much as $i million. After failing to interest 
Newsweek magazine, Guerrero approached the London Times in 
late August, and within a few days, Peter Hounam was in Aus- 
tralia, interviewing Vanunu. 

Guerrero, apparently fearful that he would be cut out of 
Vanunu's agreement with the Sunday Times, also approached 
the Sunday Mirror — known for its checkbook journalism — while 
Hounam and the Sunday Times's "Insight Team" were prepar- 
ing their story. It was that approach that put Ari Ben-Menashe 
and the Israeli intelligence community into the picture. 

Hounam and the editors at the Sunday Times did not know that 
as they worked, Mordecai Vanunu had been compromised to 
the Israelis by a Fleet Street colleague named Nicholas Davies, 
the foreign editor of the Daily Mirror, sister newspaper of the 
Sunday Mirror. Davies's contact was Ari Ben-Menashe. He and 
Ben-Menashe had been partners in an international arms sales 
firm initially known as Ora Limited, which had operated out of 
Davies's London home since 1983. Ora Limited, set up with the 
approval of the Israeli government, according to Ben-Menashe, 
was designed to get arms flowing into Iran — one of many such 
undercover operations around the world. "Davies was my main 
backup on all the Iran arms sales," Ben-Menashe said. 

Because of his ability to speak Farsi, Ben-Menashe had been 
assigned in November 1980 to a small working group inside the 
Israeli intelligence community that dealt with Iran, then an 
international outcast — like Israel — that needed arms for its war 
against Iraq. Ben-Menashe's assignment was to find ways of 
getting around the arms embargo. Front companies and credi- 
ble people to run them were essential. "Nick had a friend in 


the Mossad," Ben-Menashe recalled, and there was a casual 
meeting in London. Davies accepted an invitation to visit 
Israel; it was just a few more steps before he became an Israeli 
asset. As a Catholic from northern England, Ben-Menashe said, 
Davies was the perfect cutout, a well-dressed charmer with a 
strong taste for the good life. 

Ben-Menashe's files include hundreds of telexes and other 
documents indicating that Ora Limited was actively involved 
in arms trafficking with Iran at the highest levels. One 1987 
cable, sent to Ayatollah Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, pro- 
vided terms for the sale to Iran of four thousand TOW missiles 
at a cost of $13,800 each. The cable declared that a British citizen 
named Nicholas Davies, as a representative of Ora Limited, 
"will have the authority to sign contracts in Iran. . . ." An- 
other series of documents revolved around the 1987 efforts of 
Ora Limited to set up a communications company in Tucson, 
Arizona, to be headed by Robert D. Watters, then a broadcast 
engineer at the University of Arizona's television station. Wat- 
ters, an expert on satellite voice communications, recalled 
many meetings with Ben-Menashe in Tucson and many tele- 
phone conversations with Davies in London. "I thought Nick 
was the money man," Watters said. "He was there representing 
Ora." # 

Davies, reached by telephone in London at a number listed 
for Ora Limited, acknowledged that he knew Ben-Menashe but 
denied any involvement in arms sales: "All I will say is just 
keep investigating." Ben-Menashe, he added, was only a news 
source: "He's got amazing information." At one time, he said, 
he and Ben-Menashe had discussed collaborating on a book, but 
the prospective publisher was not interested. Ben-Menashe was 
now telling stories about him, Davies said, in revenge. "If any 

* Watters wasn't surprised to learn that Davies was in the newspaper business: "He 
called from what sounded like a very open room with lots of people talking and type- 
writers going. I always wondered where he was." Before agreeing to set up the com- 
pany on behalf of Ora Limited, Watters added, he sought to check out Ben-Menashe 
and his London firm. Watters was also working under contract on a communications 
project for the U. S. Border Control and, through a friend there, was put in touch with 
officials of the U. S. Justice Department in Washington. "They said, 'Go ahead. Do 
anything he wants. Just keep us informed/ " Watters said. 


allegations are made in England," Davies warned, "I'll be see- 
ing my solicitor." 

But, in addition to the cable cited above, Ben-Menashe's alle- 
gations were explicitly confirmed by Janet Fielding, a London 
actress who was the second wife of Nicholas Davies from 1982 
to 1985. She said that she knew that Davies was selling arms in 
partnership with Ben-Menashe at the same time he was serving 
as foreign editor of the Daily Mirror. Eventually, she said in a 
telephone interview, she became "appalled" by her then hus- 
band's activities. "Nick would try to tell me stuff [about the 
arms sales] and I said I didn't want to know. I left him because 
of it." 

She had first known him as a journalist who had written 
critically of the massacres at Sabra and Shatila during the 1982 
Israeli invasion of Lebanon: "And then he gets involved with 
Ari." She especially recalled, she said, serving Ben-Menashe 
lunch at her home in late 1984: "I'd gone to the trouble of get- 
ting kosher salami and Ari didn't like it." 

Asked whether she knew that Ben-Menashe was an Israeli 
intelligence operative, Fielding responded, "It wasn't difficult 
to put two and two together. Do you think I'm bloody stupid? I 
shut my ears and walked" — out of the marriage. 

Soon after Guerrero approached the Sunday Mirror, Ben- 
Menashe said, Davies learned of it and immediately telephoned 
him in Israel to tip him off: "The next I knew I was on the 
night plane to London. Some shithead from Colombia was ped- 
dling the pictures in London. Nick arranged a meeting with 
this 'hot' American journalist — me." At the meeting, Guerrero, 
eager for another sale, displayed some of Vanunu's color photo- 
graphs. Ben-Menashe's problem, he recalled, was that he sim- 
ply had no idea what they showed or whether they were 
significant. They would have to be seen, he knew, by experts in 
Israel. "I told him I needed copies." Guerrero balked. "I said, 
'You want some money? I have to know they're real.' I told him 
Nick will vouch for me." Guerrero turned over copies of three 
Vanunu photographs. 


The fact of Vanunu's defection had been known for weeks by 
the top political leadership of Israel. There had been discus- 
sions, Ben-Menashe said, about what to do, with some officials 
urging Vanunu's assassination and the intelligence community 
recommending that he be ignored. It wasn't clear how much 
Vanunu knew or how much damage could be caused by a low- 
level Moroccan-born technician. It was Shimon Peres who 
ruled out assassination, Ben-Menashe said: "Peres said, 'Let's 
make him an example.' " 

Vanunu's photographs, which had been shipped by Ben- 
Menashe directly to Israel — he was under strict orders to stay 
away from the Israeli embassy — created havoc. Ben-Menashe 
was told the next morning, "They're real." He was also told 
that Peres was personally handling the crisis. Ben-Menashe 
learned one of the reasons a few days later: there was fear that 
Vanunu knew that Israel had deployed nuclear land mines 
along the Golan Heights — and that he would talk about it. The 
land mines had been put in place in the early 1980s, when 
Vanunu was still working at Dimona. 

That news propelled a major disinformation effort by Israel, 
Ben-Menashe said: "To stop every story. To put out the word 
that it's bullshit." Davies did his part at the Sunday Mirror, Ben- 
Menashe said, working directly with Robert Maxwell, pub- 
lisher of the Mirror Group newspapers, the largest group of 
popular tabloids in Great Britain, which included the Daily 
and Sunday Mirror. Davies provided the framework for the Sep- 
tember 28 Vanunu story, Ben-Menashe recalled, and then "it 
went to Maxwell. He was dealing directly with Maxwell." At 
one point, Ben-Menashe said, Davies set up a meeting for Ben- 
Menashe with Maxwell at his ninth-floor office. Maxwell made 
it clear at the brief session, Ben-Menashe recalled, that he un- 
derstood what was to be done about the Vanunu story. "I know 
what has to happen," Maxwell told Ben-Menashe. "I have al- 
ready spoken to your bosses." 

Maxwell, Rupert Murdoch's fellow press baron and major 
competitor, was known for his closeness to Israel's top leader- 
ship. He subsequently became an owner of Maariv, the Israeli 
daily newspaper, and also briefly was owner of the Cytex Cor- 


poration, an Israeli-based supplier of high-tech printing equip- 
ment, whose senior executives included Yair Shamir, a former 
air force colonel and the son of Yitzhak Shamir. 

The Sunday Mirror reporting and editing team that handled 
the Vanunu story had no contact with Nicholas Davies, whom 
they knew only as the foreign editor of the Daily Mirror. What 
the reporters did know, however, was that the story that ap- 
peared under their names had been dictated in tone and con- 
tent by the newspaper's editor, Michael Malloy. There were 
heated debates with the Mirror's reporting team, led by Tony 
Frost, insisting that the real story was not about Guerrero and 
his antics, as Malloy wanted to make it, but about the Vanunu 
photographs. Whatever Guerrero's problems, the Vanunu pho- 
tographs could be real. If so, it was one hell of a story. The 
reporters recommended that the photographs be "splashed" 
across the front of the newspaper, with the accompanying 
story raising questions about their authenticity. But Malloy 
wanted none of Vanunu's photographs published and insisted 
on holding up Vanunu, and the Sunday Times, to ridicule. 

The crunch came on the Thursday before publication, when 
Frost and a colleague named Mark Souster were ordered by 
Malloy to take the Vanunu photographs and data to the Israeli 
embassy. John C. Parker, then Malloy's senior deputy, under- 
stood that Maxwell himself had given the order. Parker and his 
colleagues were extremely concerned about what going to the 
embassy meant for Vanunu. It could lead to his arrest and even 
put his life in danger from assassination. "It's an editor's pre- 
rogative," Malloy told them, and the newspaper's staff did his 

Frost knew that he and his colleagues had not participated in 
journalism's finest hour: "I was hoping one day that the full 
story would come out on this," he said. 

Peter J. Miller, the Sunday Mirror's senior news editor, who 
was fired by Maxwell in 1990 (Frost also was dismissed in the 
dispute), angrily complained that the newspaper's treatment of 
the Vanunu story had been turned around because of pressure 
from above. "The line we were instructed to take," Miller said, 
"cost the Sunday Mirror a world-beating exclusive."* 

* Miller was fired in November 1990, after he was accused initially of neglect of 
duties and later with conspiring with another Sunday Mirror employee to sell a photo- 


Parker, who left the Mirror in 1988 to publish King of Fools, a 
best-selling biography of the Duke of Windsor, also expressed 
bitterness over the handling of the Vanunu story. "The Sunday 
Mirror had the biggest story in the world at that time and it 
collapsed because of the line they took," he said. "It was a clas- 
sic exercise by the Israelis in disinformation." 

Malloy, who was forced out in 1988 as editor of the Sunday 
Mirror, acknowledged that he had discussed the handling of the 
Vanunu story with Maxwell, but said there was "nothing sinis- 
ter or strange about Maxwell's involvement. I told Bob about it 
because of his involvement with Israel. He does have powerful 
friends there and close links." Told of the complaints by 
Parker, Miller, and Frost, Malloy said that he himself had mis- 
judged the importance of the Vanunu photographs. "My news 
instincts were bad," Malloy, now a free-lance writer and novel- 
ist, explained. "It sounded to me like a setup." It was Maxwell, 
however, Malloy recalled, who ordered the staff to take the 
photographs to the Israeli embassy. "I think he [Maxwell] prob- 
ably said, 'Oh, let the Israelis have a look at it,' and that's how it 
came about. It wasn't as if we were handing them to a foreign 

Malloy also said he could not deny that he had invoked Max- 
well's name in telling Miller, Parker, and Frost how to handle 
the story. Although he could not specifically recall doing so in 
the Vanunu case, Malloy said, "generally Maxwell was given a 
draft [of stories] in advance." Malloy also acknowledged that it 
was possible that Maxwell was not keeping him fully informed 
of his independent contacts, with the Israelis or others on the 
Mirror newspaper group, such as Nicholas Davies.* Maxwell 

graph of Lady Diana, the Princess of Wales, dancing with John Travolta, the American 
actor, to rival publications after it had been printed in the Mirror. Miller, who was the 
publisher of a local London newspaper and magazine when interviewed, contested the 
firing before Britain's Industrial Tribunal, and in June 1991 won his case against Max- 
well and the Sunday Mirror. The Tribunal, as of August 1991, was considering how 
much compensation to award Miller. Frost, now the deputy editor of the Sunday Sun in 
Newcastle, England, was also dismissed by Maxwell. He did not contest Maxwell's 
action against him. 

* Malloy said he knew nothing of Davies' ties to the Israelis but depicted him as 
serving as "sort of equerry for Maxwell. When Bob travels, he always has an entourage 
and Nick became part of that entourage." Davies, Malloy added, "always was a kind of 
entrepreneurial character — selling and importing on the side." 


was in intelligence during the war," Malloy explained, "so he 
can be extremely disingenuous. So if he did know more than I 
knew, it's quite possible he wouldn't tell me." 

Handling Robert Maxwell's Sunday Mirror was one thing, 
but the Sunday Times was still known to be at work on the 
Vanunu story — and the Israeli intelligence community had no 
clout at the top at the Times. "Those guys were not us," Ben- 
Menashe said. "They wanted the real story." The next step was 
to find Vanunu, still hiding out in London, and somehow man- 
age to get him out of England. "We didn't know what hotel he 
was staying at," Ben-Menashe added. "We asked Nick to ask 
around and find out where the fuck he was. Nick did it, and we 
spotted him." Within days, the lonely Vanunu, who did not 
know about the land mines, Ben-Menashe said, was entrapped 
by the Mossad's Cindy Hanin Bentov and en route to Rome. 

Ben-Menashe's involvement in the incident ended at that 
point, but he maintained his business ties with Davies until his 
arrest in New York in 1989. He initially sought to keep secret 
Davies's role in the ongoing arms sales, Ben-Menashe said, as 
any good intelligence operative would, but he decided to talk 
after Davies made no move to come to his defense. Davies, in 
fact, retained a New York attorney in a successful effort to 
resist being deposed by Ben-Menashe's attorneys in the case. 

If he had chosen to do so, Ben-Menashe claimed, Davies 
could have proven to the American prosecutors that the sale of 
the C-130S to Iran had been sanctioned by the Israeli govern- 


For the men in the White House, the first day of President 
George Bush's Persian Gulf War couldn't have gone better. As 
America — and the world — watched on television, U.S. cruise 
missiles and Air Force and Navy planes struck their targets in 
downtown Baghdad and elsewhere in Iraq with precision. War 
seemed almost too easy. But the euphoria disappeared on the 
second day, as the Iraqi army carried out Saddam Hussein's 
pre-war pledge and fired eight Scud missiles at Israel from 
launchers that had supposedly been destroyed in the first hours 
of the war. Two Scuds landed in Tel Aviv and another near 
Haifa, and the world listened with dread to the initial, and 
erroneous, newscasts reporting that the Scud warheads con- 
tained nerve gas. Frightened Israelis, wearing gas masks, hud- 
dled in specially sealed above-ground rooms, waiting out the 
Iraqi bombardment; the streets below, as seen on television, 
were eerily quiet. 

A senior American defense official rushed to Israel with a 
promise of future support, but it seemed inevitable that Israel 
would enter the Gulf War by sending its air force and its spe- 
cially trained commando units into western Iraq, where the 
Scuds were located. 

Adding to the tension was the fact that American intelli- 
gence had miscalculated in its predictions that Iraq had a lim- 
ited number of Scud warheads and launchers — some estimates 
before the war put that number at fewer than 20. It had been 
thought that Iraq could launch its Scuds only from fixed 
launcher sites or from mobile launchers — no one had foreseen 
that Saddam Hussein's troops would convert a newly pur- 
chased fleet of flatbed trucks into makeshift launching pads. 


General H. Norman Schwarzkopf, the American commander, 
eventually acknowledged that Iraq could have as many as fif- 
teen battalions of launchers, each supplied with fifteen Scuds — 
a total of 225 missiles. 

There was another element involved in those first hours, not 
known to the public but detected by an American satellite mak- 
ing its ninety-six-minute orbit around the earth. The satellite 
saw that Shamir had responded to the Scud barrage by order- 
ing mobile missile launchers armed with nuclear weapons 
moved into the open and deployed facing Iraq, ready to launch 
on command. American intelligence picked up other signs in- 
dicating that Israel had gone on a full-scale nuclear alert that 
would remain in effect for weeks. No one in the Bush adminis- 
tration knew just what Israel would do if a Scud armed with 
nerve gas struck a crowded apartment building, killing thou- 
sands. All George Bush could offer Shamir, besides money and 
more batteries of Patriot missiles, was American assurance that 
the Iraqi Scud launcher sites would be made a priority target of 
the air war. 

Such guarantees meant little; no Jews had been killed by 
poison gas since Treblinka and Auschwitz, and Israel, after all, 
had built its bomb so it would never have to depend on the 
goodwill of others when the lives of Jews were being threat- 

The escalation didn't happen, however; the conventionally 
armed Scud warheads caused — amazingly — minimal casualties, 
and military and financial commitments from the Bush admin- 
istration rolled in. The government of Prime Minister Yitzhak 
Shamir received international plaudits for its restraint. 

American officials were full of private assurances for months 
after the crisis that things had been under control; newsmen 
were told that Israel, recognizing the enormous consequence of 
a nuclear strike, would not have launched its missiles at Bagh- 

The fact is, of course, that no one in America — not even its 
President — could have dissuaded Shamir and his advisers from 
ordering any military actions they deemed essential to the pro- 
tection of their nation. Such sovereignty isn't new or unusual. 
What is unusual is that one of America's most important allies 


— a beleaguered ally surrounded by avowed enemies constantly 
threatening war — has secretly amassed a large nuclear arsenal 
while Washington looked the other way. 

America's policy toward the Israeli arsenal, as we have seen 
in this book, was not just one of benign neglect: it was a con- 
scious policy of ignoring reality. 

By the mid-1980s, the technicians at Dimona had manufac- 
tured hundreds of low-yield neutron warheads capable of de- 
stroying large numbers of enemy troops with minimal 
property damage. The size and sophistication of Israel's arsenal 
allows men such as Ariel Sharon to dream of redrawing the 
map of the Middle East aided by the implicit threat of nuclear 
force. Israel also has been an exporter of nuclear technology 
and has collaborated on nuclear weapons research with other 
nations, including South Africa. 

In September 1988, Israel launched its first satellite into orbit, 
bringing it a huge step closer to intercontinental missiles and a 
satellite intelligence capability — no more Jonathan Pollards 
would be needed to steal America's secrets. Scientists at Z Divi- 
sion concluded that the rocket booster that launched the Israeli 
satellite produced enough thrust to deliver a small nuclear war- 
head to a target more than six thousand miles away. Israeli 
physicists are still at the cutting edge in weapons technology 
and involved, as are their American and Soviet counterparts, in 
intensive research into nuclear bomb-pumped X-ray lasers, hy- 
drodynamics, and radiation transport — the next generation of 

None of this has ever been discussed in the open in Israel, or 
in the Knesset. Meanwhile, Israeli field commanders have ac- 
cepted nuclear artillery shells and land mines as battlefield ne- 
cessities: another means to an end. The basic target of Israel's 
nuclear arsenal has been and will continue to be its Arab neigh- 
bors. Should war break out in the Middle East again and 
should the Syrians and the Egyptians break through again as 
they did in 1973, or should any Arab nation fire missiles again at 
Israel, as Iraq did, a nuclear escalation, once unthinkable ex- 
cept as a last resort, would now be a strong probability. Never 

The Samson Option is no longer the only nuclear option 
available to Israel. 


No author could have been blessed with a more intelligent, 
enthusiastic, or caring researcher, fact checker, editor, and col- 
league than Max Friedman of National Public Radio, an Ober- 
lin College graduate who worked closely with me on this book 
for the past three years. He is a wonderful journalist. 

Benjamin Frankel of Washington, a political scientist and an 
expert on national security, provided a seemingly unending 
tutelage on Israeli politics, history, and sociology. 

Thomas W. Graham of the University of California at San 
Diego served as an in-house expert on the history of U.S. non- 
proliferation efforts, a subject few know better. 

Thomas B. Cochran and Robert S. Norris graciously gave me 
a series of ad hoc, but expert, seminars on nuclear weapons and 
how they are made. Cochran is senior scientist and Norris is 
senior analyst with the Natural Resources Defense Council in 

My longtime editor and friend Robert Loomis of Random 
House cared about this book and what it said, and how it said 
it. His help was essential. Esther Newberg, my agent, knew 
when to crack the whip and when to share a joke. It is a delight 
to be represented by someone of her integrity and intelligence. 
My thanks to Heather Shroder for her help in getting this book 
to foreign publishers. 

Thanks, too, to Mrs. Miriam Borgenicht Klein for her help. 


Few books have been written specifically on Israel's nuclear arsenal. The first 
and most politically insightful is Israel and Nuclear Weapons, by Fuad Jabber 
(published for the International Institute for Strategic Studies by Chatto & 
Windus, London, 1971). See also Israels Nuclear Arsenal, by Peter Pry (West- 
view Press, Boulder, Colo., 1984); Israeli Nuclear Deterrence, by Shai Feldman 
(Columbia University Press, New York, 1982), and Dimona: The Third Temple? 
by Mark GafFney (Amana Books, Brattleboro, Vt., 1989). The best reference 
work on the status of world proliferation is compiled and written by Leonard 
S. Spector, of the Carnegie Endowment in Washington, who publishes peri- 
odic updates. His most recent (with Jacqueline R. Smith) is Nuclear Ambitions: 
The Spread of Nuclear Weapons, ip8p-ippo (Westview Press, Boulder, Colo., 1990). 
And for the most recent Israeli view of the nuclear debate, see "Opaque 
Nuclear Proliferation," by Avner Cohen and Benjamin Frankel, Journal of 
Strategic Studies, Vol. 13, No. 3, September 1990, beginning at page 14. 

1. A Secret Agreement 

A full description of America's satellite capability and hardware, including 
an account of the KH-n, can be found in American Espionage and the Soviet 
Target, by Jeffrey Richelson (William Morrow, New York, 1987). The first 
journalistic report on the CIA's kk mountain activities can be found in Dan- 
gerous Liaison, by Andrew and Leslie Cockburn (HarperCollins, New York, 
1991); see Chapter 5, "Dirty Work on the Mountain." For an excellent discus- 
sion of President Jimmy Carter's troubles with the CIA's intelligence in Iran, 
see All Fall Down, by Gary Sick (Penguin Books, New York, 1985). There were 
many newspaper and magazine articles on the Geoffrey Prime spy scandal in 
Britain; see, for example, "The Treason of Geoffrey Prime," Economist, No- 
vember 13, 1982, page 63. William Kampiles's travails similarly were fully re- 
ported. Richard Allen was first interviewed for this book on May 19, 1989, and 
many times thereafter. For a good account of the internal feuding in Israel 
over the bombing of the Iraqi reactor at Osirak, see Israels Secret Wars, by Ian 
Black and Benny Morris (Grove Weidenfeld, New York, 1991), beginning at 
page 332. There have been many popular accounts of the raid itself; see, for 
example, Two Minutes over Baghdad, by Amos Perlmutter, Michael Handel, 
and Uri Bar-Joseph (Corgi Books, London, 1982). Also see First Strike, by 
Shlomo Nakdimon (Summit Books, New York, 1987, originally published by 
Yediot Ahronot/Eidanim, Tel Aviv, 1986). Menachem Begin's reaction to the 
raid can be found in the Israeli press for June 1982; see "Begin: Secret Atom 

324 NOTES 

Bunker Also Was Destroyed in Raid ," Jerusalem Post, June 12, 1981, page 1. The 
cited State Department study on Mozambique is entitled "Summary of 
Mozambican Refugee Accounts of Principally Conflict-Related Experience in 
Mozambique," submitted to the State Department in April 1988 by Robert 
Gersony, a consultant to the Bureau for Refugee Programs. William Bader 
was interviewed in Washington on June 3, 1991. 

2. The Scientist 

Not surprisingly, very little has been written about Ernst Bergmann. He is 
discussed in Chaim Weizmann: A Biography by Several Hands, in a chapter by 
R.H.S. Crossman, "The Prisoner of Rehovot," at page 333 (Atheneum, New 
York, 1963). See also From These Men, by Shimon Peres (Wyndham Books, New 
York, 1979), pages 185-201. An excellent magazine account of Bergmann's ca- 
reer was published in the weekly Tel Aviv Magazine of Yediot Ahronot, Israel's 
largest newspaper, in March 1991: "Who Forgot the Father of the Israeli 
Atom, and Why?" by Roni Hadar. The article, because of Israeli censorship, 
only hints at Bergmann's important role. The best biography (in English) of 
David Ben-Gurion is Ben-Gurion, by Michael Bar-Zohar (Adama Books, New 
York, 1977). Bar-Zohar is cited throughout the early portions of this book. The 
diaries of Moshe Sharett, Personal Diary, in Hebrew (Maariv, Tel Aviv, 1980) 
have been translated only in part. There are eight volumes in the original. 
Details of the early announcements of the Israeli Atomic Energy Commis- 
sion can be found in Jabber and Pry. Bergmann's 1954 speech can be found in 
the Daily Report of the Foreign Broadcast Information Service for Tuesday, 
November 23, 1954, No. 227. Other details on Israel's early nuclear research 
program were provided by United Nations Ambassador Abba Eban in a 
speech on November 15, 1954; see page 335 et seq. of the official record for the 
General Assembly, Ninth Session. Ben-Gurion's remark about Israel being a 
"small spot" was cited in "The Hidden Debate," by Uri Bar-Joseph, Journal of 
Strategic Studies, June 1982, at page 212. Bar-Joseph's is one of many excellent 
scholarly articles on the Suez Crisis; see also "Israel's Relations with the 
Arabs," by Avi Shlaim, Middle East Journal, Spring 1983, beginning at page 180. 
Shlomo Aronson, an Israeli political scientist, has analyzed Israeli foreign 
policy in terms of its nuclear potential: see Conflict and Bargaining in the Middle 
East (Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore, 1978). The death of Aharon 
Katzir-Katchalsky was reported in the Jerusalem Post, June 1, 1972, "Leading 
Scientist Killed," page 3. Bergmann's quote about two atomic energies can be 
found in "Israelis Honor Atom Scientist," by James Feron, New York Times, 
May 14, 1966. Herman Mark was interviewed December 14, 1990, in Austin, 
Texas, and by telephone many times thereafter. Abe Feinberg was initially 
interviewed in New York on April 20, 1989, and many times in person and on 
the telephone thereafter. Bergmann's cited interview in 1969 was published in 
part in A Tacit Alliance, an excellent doctoral study of French-Israeli military 
ties by Sylvia K. Crosbie (Princeton University Press, Princeton, N.J., 1974). 
Bertrand Goldschmidt was interviewed in Paris on November 24, 1990. More 
details can be found in his memoir, Atomic Rivals (Rutgers University Press, 
New Brunswick, N.J., 1990), and his history of nuclear energy, The Atomic 
Complex (American Nuclear Society, La Grange Park, 111., 1980). 

NOTES 325 

3. The French Connection 

The best account of France's role in the Israeli bomb is the cited Les deux 
bombes, by Pierre Pean (Fayard, Paris, 1982). The announcement of the Cana- 
dian-Indian reactor can be found in "Canada to Help Build Atom Research 
Reactor for India," by Grey Hamilton, Toronto Globe and Mail, April 30, 1956. 
Basic sources for the period leading up to the Suez war include the diaries of 
Ben-Gurion and Sharett, as well as The Eisenhower Diaries, Robert Ferrell, 
editor (W. W. Norton, New York, 1981), and de Gaulle's Memoirs of Hope (Si- 
mon & Schuster, New York, 1970). See also Diary of the Sinai Campaign, by 
Moshe Dayan (Weidenfeld & Nicholson, London, 1965), and Suez, by Hugh 
Thomas (Harper & Row, New York, 1966). The Bulganin threat during the 
Suez War can be found in contemporary newspaper accounts; especially see 
"Soviet Protests Canal Blockade," New York Times, November 5, 1956. The 
cited Peres biography is Shimon Peres, by Matti Golan (St. Martin's Press, 
New York, 1982). The French reactor at Marcoule is described in Mechanical 
Engineering Magazine, November 1959, at page 60 (no mention is made of its 
weapons capability, however). For the French view of the nuclear issue, see 
The Balance of Terror, by Pierre Gallois (Houghton Mifflin, Boston, 1961), page 
137 et seq. 

4. First Knowledge 

The best account of the U-2 can be found in Mayday, by Michael R. 
Beschloss (Harper & Row, New York, 1986). Arthur Lundahl was interviewed 
in Bethesda, Maryland, on June 19, 1989, and many times by telephone after- 
ward. Dino Brugioni was interviewed dozens of times by telephone at his 
home in Hartwood, Virginia, beginning on July 5, 1989. His account of the 
Auschwitz findings (cited in Chapter 7) can be found in "The Serendipity 
Effect of Aerial Reconnaissance," by Dino A. Brugioni, Interdisciplinary Science 
Reviews, Vol. 124, No. 1, 1989. America's difficulties in locating Soviet nuclear 
targets before the advent of the U-2 are described by David A. Rosenberg in 
"The Origins of Overkill: Nuclear Weapons and American Strategy, 1945- 
1960," International Security, Vol. 7, No. 3 (Spring 1983), pages 3-71. Andrew 
Goodpaster was interviewed by telephone in Washington on January 11, 1991. 

5. Internal Wars 

See Jabber for the generally held and mistaken view of the early resigna- 
tions of the Israeli Atomic Energy Commission, as well as Every Spy a Prince, 
by Dan Raviv and Yossi Melman (Houghton Mifflin, Boston, 1990), page 69. 
Raviv and Melman, however, mention Binyamin Blumberg's important and 
early role in the Israeli bomb on the same page. Black and Morris also deal 
with Blumberg's little-known history. Ian Smart was interviewed in New 
York on July 23, 1989. He was then living in London. Thomas Graham was 
interviewed in Washington on May 15, 1989; his cited article is "The Econom- 
ics of Producing Nuclear Weapons in Nth Countries," by Thomas W. Gra- 
ham, in Strategies for Managing Nuclear Proliferation, edited by D. L. Brito, M. 
D. Intriligator, and A. E. Wick (Lexington Books, Lexington, Mass., 1983). 
Peres's boast about raising money can be found in the previously cited week- 
end magazine of Yediot Ahronot. 

326 NOTES 

6. Going Public 

John Finney was interviewed in Washington on April 18, 1989. The cited 
article was "U.S. Hears Israel Moves Toward A-Bomb Potential," New York 
Times, December 19, i960, page 1. McCone's resignation and TV appearance 
were also on page 1 that day: "McCone to Resign as AEC Member." The cited 
Buchwald column (reprinted in part, with his permission) was published 
January 10, 1961, in the New York Herald-Tribune, "The Smashing Tailors of 
Beersheba." Walter Elder was interviewed in his suburban Virginia home on 
August 28, 1989, and many times by telephone thereafter. Armand Meyer was 
interviewed in Rosslyn, Virginia, on June 15, 1990. The cited Herter state- 
ment can be found in The Alliance, by Richard J. Barnet (Simon & Schuster, 
New York, 1983), page 179. Philip Farley was interviewed in Palo Alto, Califor- 
nia, on October 30, 1989. Chapman Pincher was interviewed by telephone on 
March 28, 1991; the cited article is "Israel May Be Making an A-Bomb," Lon- 
don Daily Express, December 16, i960, page 2. Myron Kratzer was interviewed 
in Washington in June 1989, and by telephone thereafter. The cited Freedom 
of Information documents are in the author's possession. Christian Herter's 
testimony to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee can be found in Vol. 
XIII, Part I, of the published Executive Sessions of the Senate Foreign Rela- 
tions Committee (Historical Series), made public April 1984. 

7. Dual Loyalty 

The Strauss biography is No Sacrifice Too Great, by Richard Pfau (Univer- 
sity Press of Virginia, Charlottesville, 1984.) There are many accounts of Op- 
penheimer's travails before the AEC; see The Oppenheimer Hearing, by John 
Major (Batsford, London, 1971). Strauss's test ban testimony was cited in The 
Glory and the Dream, by William Manchester (Little, Brown, Boston, 1973), 
page 985. Carl Kaysen was interviewed in Cambridge, Massachusetts, on No- 
vember n, 1989, and thereafter by telephone. William L. Strauss was inter- 
viewed by telephone on April 3, 1991; Alice Strauss was interviewed by 
telephone on May 6, 1991. Algie Wells was interviewed by telephone on 
March 29, 1991. 

8. A Presidential Struggle 

Abe Feinberg's role in presidential politics and fund-raising was initially 
reported in an unpublished dissertation, "Ethnic Linkage and Foreign Pol- 
icy," by Etta Zablocki, Columbia University, 1983 (available through UMI 
dissertation information service, Ann Arbor, Mich.). Similar material was 
published in The Lobby, by Edward Tivnan (Simon & Schuster, New York, 
1987), and Truman and Israel, by Michael J. Cohen (University of California 
Press, Berkeley, 1990). None of the accounts discusses Feinberg's relationship 
with the Israeli nuclear program. Clark Clifford was interviewed about Fein- 
berg on April 8, 1991. Abraham RibicofF was interviewed by telephone on 
November 5, 1990. Ben Bradlee and Arthur Schlesinger discussed President 
Kennedy on April 9, 1991. Kennedy's comments about campaign financing 
were made on October 4, 1961, according to Facts on File. A good account of 
Kennedy's efforts on campaign financing can be found in Congressional 
Quarterly's "Congress and the Nation 1965-1968," Vol. II, "Political Finances," 
p. 444. Myer Feldman was interviewed in Washington on June 13, 1989, and 
many times thereafter. Jerome Weisner was interviewed by telephone on 

NOTES 327 

June 27, 1991. Robert Komer was interviewed in Washington on April 3, 1989, 
and two times thereafter. William Crawford was interviewed in suburban 
Maryland on May 3, 1990. Israel's diversion of the Norwegian heavy water 
has been thoroughly researched and reported by Gary Milhollin, director of 
the Wisconsin Project on Nuclear Arms Control in Washington. Milhollin 
was the first to expose the issue, and has been more than generous in sharing 
his files and research. The explanation for the lack of a Shavit I can be found 
in "Publicity on Rocket Explained in Israel," New York Times, June 10, 1961. 
Paul Nitze was interviewed on October 9, 1990. Robert McNamara's cryptic 
conversation with the author took place on January 11, 1991. The more logical 
account of why the Israeli Atomic Energy Commission fell apart in the late 
1950s was supplied by Yuval Neeman, minister of energy, in a conversation in 
Washington on April 15, 1991. Neeman would not discuss any current issues 
relating to Israel's nuclear capabilities. Floyd Culler was interviewed on No- 
vember 30, 1989, in Palo Alto, California, and later by telephone. Phillips 
Talbot was interviewed briefly by telephone on April 8, 1991. 

9. Years of Pressure 

The declassified memorandum of the Kennedy talk with Golda Meir is 
available from the JFK Library in Boston and also can be found in President 
Kennedy s Policy Toward the Arab States and Israel, by Mordechai Gazit (Shiloah 
Center for Middle Eastern and African Studies, Tel Aviv University, 1983), 
page 108. The Gazit book provides invaluable background on Israeli policy in 
the Kennedy period. Much detail about Ben-Gurion's attitude and the history 
of that period, it should be noted again, comes from Michael Bar-Zohar's 
abridged biography. Daniel Ellsberg was interviewed in Washington on 
March 20, 1989. The most complete summary of Johnson's early ties to Ameri- 
can Jews can be found in "Prologue," by Louis S. Gomolak, unpublished 
doctoral thesis (University of Texas, 1989), available through UMI disserta- 
tion information service. 

10. The Samson Option 

Excellent work on this period has been done by Shlomo Aronson, the 
Israeli political scientist and advocate of the deterrent value of Israel's nu- 
clear arsenal. Moshe Dayan's Maariv article was summarized April 13, 1963, in 
the New York Times, "Israelis Warned on Arms Lag." Ben-Gurion's letter to 
the Times was published November 20, 1963. Theodore Taylor's paper was 
entitled "Can Nuclear Weapons Be Developed Without Full Testing?" It was 
a lecture given on December 11, 1988, at a workshop on Verification of Nuclear 
and Conventional Arms Reductions, Robin Brook Centre, St. Bartholomew's 
Medical College, London. The text of the lecture, with additional material, is 
reproduced in Theodore B. Taylor, "Nuclear Tests and Nuclear Weapons," 
in Benjamin Frankel, ed., Opaque Nuclear Proliferation: Methodological and Policy 
Implications (Frank Cass, London, 1991), pages 175-90. The cited White House 
papers are on file at the Lyndon B. Johnson Library in Austin. A number of 
books are useful on the background of international control of nuclear en- 
ergy. See The International Atomic Energy Agency and World Nuclear Order, by 
Lawrence Scheinman (Resources for the Future, Washington, D.C., 1987) and 
Nuclear Power Issues and Choices, chaired by Spurgeon M. Keeny, Jr. (Ballinger 
Publishing Company, Cambridge, Mass., 1977). For a discussion of the Sam- 

328 NOTES 

son and Masada psychologies, see A Psycho-History of Zionism, by Jay Y. Gonen 
(Mason J. Charter, New York, 1975), Chapter 13. The cited Podhoretz article is 
entitled "The Abandonment of Israel" and appeared in the July 1976 issue of 
Commentary. The New York Times article on Bergmann appeared on June 14, 
1966, and is cited above. 

11. Playing the Game 

The most comprehensive book on James Angleton is Cold Warrior, by Tom 
Mangold (Simon & Schuster, New York, 1991). Mangold shows that Angleton 
always had the support of Richard Helms in his paranoid treatment of defec- 
tors. Samuel Halpern was interviewed in his suburban Virginia home on 
April 29, 1991. The CIA's estimate on the "Consequences of Israeli Acquisi- 
tion of Nuclear Capability" can be found in the Mordechai Gazit book cited 
above. For an excellent account of the making of the Chinese nuclear bomb, 
see China Builds the Bomb, by John Wilson Lewis and Xue Litai (Stanford 
University Press, Stanford, Calif., 1988). The material cited from Glenn 
Seaborg's Stemming the Tide (Lexington Books, Lexington, Mass., 1987) can be 
found in Chapter 13, "A Tale of Two Committees." The quote about India 
from McGeorge Bundy's Danger and Survival (Random House, New York, 
1988) can be found on page 585. Seaborg describes the debate over the Gilpat- 
ric panel. Robert Kennedy's cited Senate speech was delivered on June 23, 
1965; see the Congressional Record for that day at page 14566. The John Finney 
story was "Israel Permits U.S. to Inspect Atomic Reactor," New York Times, 
March 14, 1965, page 1. 

12. The Ambassador 

Walworth Barbour is rarely mentioned in any of the contemporary books 
about Israel or Middle East policies. One of the few to single out Barbour was 
Abba Eban, in his Autobiography (Random House, New York, 1977); Eban cor- 
rectly described him as "corpulent, good-natured and brilliantly incisive," at 
page 297. Edward Dale was interviewed the first of many times at his home in 
Chapel Hill, North Carolina, on September 7, 1990. John Hadden was inter- 
viewed in Brunswick, Maine, on June 8, 1989, and many times thereafter by 
telephone. Peter Jessup was interviewed in Washington on March 20, 1989, 
and later by telephone. Carmelo Alba was interviewed in suburban Virginia 
on April 10, 1991. Herman Pollack was interviewed by telephone on May 21, 
1991. Max Ben was initially interviewed by telephone from his home in St. 
Petersburg, Florida, on May 22, 1991, and thereafter. The late Robert Webber's 
widow, Clytie Webber, discussed her husband with the author on May 21, 
1991. Eugene Braderman of Washington was interviewed twice by telephone 
about his 1960s visit to Israel, on October 1, 1990, and again the following 
April. The late Joseph Zurhellen was interviewed in New York on Septem- 
ber 8, 1989. Arnold Kramish told of his meeting with Barbour in an interview 
on June 5, 1990. The cited Golda Meir comment about Barbour can be found 
in "Quiet Envoy to Israel," New York Times, April 3, 1971, one of the few times 
Barbour's name appeared in print while he was ambassador. 

13. An Israeli Decision 

Yigal Allon's boastful remarks made page 1 in the New York Times for De- 
cember 11, 1967, "Allon Hints Israel Has Missiles." Moshe Dayan's Soviet 

NOTES 329 

warning was published in Frankfurter Allgemeine on July 7, 1967. Walter Ros- 
tow was interviewed at the LBJ Library in Austin, Texas, on October 14, 1990. 
Kissinger's nuclear remarks can be found on page 397 (footnotes) in the Aron- 
son book cited above. The cited Time magazine article is "How Israel Got the 
Bomb," April 12, 1976. The Plumbat Affair was written by Elaine Davenport, 
Paul Eddy, and Peter Gillman (J. B. Lippincott, Philadelphia, 1978). 

14. A Presidential Gift 

Dan Rather' s question for the President came during a December 19, 1967, 
news conference. The documents cited herein were released to the author 
under the Freedom of Information Act; they are available from the LBJ Li- 
brary. James Critchfield was interviewed April 13, 1989, and later by tele- 
phone. Harry McPherson was interviewed by telephone on May 8, 1991. Carl 
Duckett was interviewed at his home in Hutchins, Virginia, on June 27, 1991. 
There have been many published accounts of Richard Helms's aborted at- 
tempt to brief Johnson on the Israeli bomb; see "LBJ Was Told in '68 That 
Israel Had Bomb," by John J. Fialka, Washington Star, March 1, 1978, page 1. 
Paul Warnke was interviewed March 23, 1989, and later by telephone. Yitzhak 
Rabin's account can be found at pages 141 and 142 of The Rabin Memoirs (Little, 
Brown, Boston, 1979); Warnke somehow became Vornike in the Rabin book, 
however. The late Harry Schwartz was interviewed July 14, 1989, at his home 
near Easton, Maryland. The Rothschild pipeline deal was initially reported 
July 18, 1959, in the New York Times, "Rothschild Investment Group To Oper- 
ate Pipeline in Israel." Bill Moyers was interviewed by telephone on Febru- 
ary 18, 1991. 

15. The Tunnel 

The best guide to the production of nuclear weapons is U.S. Nuclear War- 
head Production, Vol. 2, by Thomas B. Cochran, William M. Arkin, Robert S. 
Norris, and Milton M. Hoenig (Ballinger, Cambridge, Mass., 1987). The essen- 
tial Vanunu story was "Revealed: The Secrets of Israel's Nuclear Arsenal," 
London Sunday Times, October 5, 1986. The story was written by the newspa- 
per's "Insight" team, led by Peter Hounam. For an extensive analysis of 
Vanunu, with additional information from his interviews with the Sunday 
Times, see The Invisible Bomb, by Frank Barnaby (I. B. Tauris, London, 1989). 
For details on Vanunu's life and his travails while being interviewed by the 
Sunday Times in London, see Triple Cross, by Louis Toscano (Birch Lane Press, 
New York, 1990). The use of robotics in the nuclear weapons production 
process is briefly described in "Machining Hemispherical Shells," in the 1988 
edition of Research Highlights, published by the Los Alamos National Labora- 
tory. George Cowan was interviewed by telephone from New Mexico on 
September 9, 1990; Hans Bethe was interviewed at his office at the California 
Institute of Technology on January 21, 1991. 

16. Prelude to War 

Nixon's comments about the NPT were made September 8, 1968, in Pitts- 
burg and September n, 1968, in Charlotte, North Carolina. NSDM 6, appar- 
ently still classified, is in the author's possession. Morton Halperin was 
interviewed in Washington on June 10, 1991. Charles Van Doren was inter- 
viewed in Washington on May 29, 1989. NSDM 32 also is in the author's 

330 NOTES 

possession. Hedrick Smith's New York Times story was "U.S. Assumes the 
Israelis Have A-Bomb or Its Parts," July 19, 1970, page 1. Smith was inter- 
viewed about the story on May 9, 1991. Glenn Cella was interviewed March 31, 
1989, and thereafter. David Long was interviewed by telephone on January 18, 
1991; Curtis Jones was interviewed in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, on Sep- 
tember 6, 1990. The Norris, Cochran, and Arkin essay is "History of the 
Nuclear Stockpile," Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, August 1985. There have 
been many published accounts of Gerald Bull; a good one is "The Guns of 
Saddam," by William Scott Malone, David Halevy, and Sam Hemingway, 
Washington Post, Outlook Section, February 10, 1991. Israel's progress in laser- 
separated uranium was first reported by Robert Gillette in Science Magazine, 
March 22, 1974, "Uranium Enrichment: Rumors of Israeli Progress with La- 
sers." Nicholas Veliotes was first interviewed on June 20, 1989, in Washington. 
The Moshe Dayan quote about the end of the Third Temple can be found in 
the previously cited Time magazine article of April 12, 1976; it is also cited in 

17. Nuclear Blackmail 

There have been scores of analyses of the Yom Kippur War, besides the 
memoirs of the participants. For differing points of view, see "Kissinger and 
the Yom Kippur War," by Edward N. Luttwak and Walter Laqueur, Commen- 
tary, September 1974; "Arab-Israeli Conflict: Implications of Mass Destruc- 
tion Weapons," by Avigdor Haselkorn, Global Affairs, Winter 1988; "The 
Relevance and Irrelevance of Nuclear Options in Conventional Wars: The 
1973 October War," by Yair Evron, Jerusalem Journal of International Relations, 
Vol. 7, Nos. 1-2, 1984; and "The Soviet Nuclear Threat Toward the Close of 
the Yom Kippur War," by Yona Bandmann and Yishai Cordova, Jerusalem 
Journal of International Relations, Vol. 5, No. 1, 1980. Also see the works cited 
above by Shai Feldman and Shlomo Aronson. Mohammed Heikal was inter- 
viewed by telephone from his office in Cairo on July 3, 1991. Henry Kissinger 
describes his meeting with Ambassador Dinitz on page 493 in Chapter 11 of 
Years of Upheaval (Little, Brown, Boston, 1982). Despite many calls to his office 
and to his former colleagues in the U.S. government, Kissinger would not be 
interviewed about the 1973 war. Hermann Eilts was interviewed on July 10, 
1991, by telephone from Boston. James Schlesinger was interviewed on April 
25, 1989, in Washington; William Colby was interviewed on January 10, 1991, 
also in Washington. The Kalb brothers published the gist of their material on 
the 1973 war from Kissinger (Little, Brown, Boston, 1974) in the New York Times 
Magazine, June 23, 1974, "Twenty Days in October." Patrick Parker was inter- 
viewed in Washington in early December 1990. Orwin Talbott was inter- 
viewed by telephone from Annapolis, Maryland, his retirement home, on 
December 10, 1990, and again on June 20, 1991. Bruce Williams was inter- 
viewed in Washington on November 28, 1990. Kissinger's request for a CIA 
report on the Israeli nuclear arsenal was first reported by Benjamin Welles in 
the Christian Science Monitor for December 6, 1973, "Kissinger Orders CIA 
Study of Israel's A- weapons Capability." Duckett's problems with the 1974 
estimate have been widely reported; see "How Israel Got the Bomb," by John 
Fialka, Washington Monthly, January 1979. 

NOTES 331 

1 8. Injustice 

John Fialka, then with the Washington Star, and David Burnham, then with 
the New York Times, have written extensively about the Zalman Shapiro case; 
see Burnham's "The Case of the Missing Uranium," Atlantic, April 1979. Both 
reporters, while raising repeated questions about Shapiro's actions, were 
careful to note that he had not been formally accused of any wrongdoing. For 
a different and more careless approach, see The Unnatural Alliance, by James 
Adams (Quartet Books, London, 1984), beginning at page 152 (Adams assumes 
that Shapiro was a Mossad asset). Dangerous Liaison doesn't do much better; 
see Chapter 4, "A Sword for Damocles." The documents and reports cited 
herein are available under the Freedom of Information Act; many thousands 
of them on NUMEC and its problems have been released. Zalman Shapiro 
was interviewed repeatedly by telephone from Pittsburgh, beginning on 
April 12, 1991. George Murphy was interviewed by telephone on May 30, 1989, 
and thereafter. James Lovett was interviewed on July 11, 1991. James Conran 
was interviewed on July 16, 1991. Victor Gilinsky was interviewed on June 12, 
1989, in suburban Maryland, and thereafter by telephone. Cynthia Virostek 
was interviewed by telephone on July 17, 1991; she has assembled extensive 
files on NUMEC, and the author wishes to thank her for her generous help. 
Jody Powell's cited denial was published in the New York Times for October 
26, 1977, "White House Discounts Allegations About Israeli Theft of Ura- 
nium," by Charles Mohr. Duckett's television appearance was on "Near Ar- 
mageddon: The Spread of Nuclear Weapons in the Middle East," an ABC 
News Closeup, April 27, 1981. Henry Myers first discussed NUMEC and Sha- 
piro with the author on November 17, 1980, and many times thereafter. Peter 
Stockton's first conversation with the author about Shapiro took place on 
January 26, 1988. Congressional funding for the cleanup of NUMEC was 
reported by United Press International, October 28, 1990, "Congress OKs 
Money for Cleanup of Nuclear Site." The estimate of more than one hundred 
kilograms of recovered uranium ("inventory gain") was provided by a senior 
technical official of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission who reviewed Bab- 
cock & Wilcox inventory reports to the NRC; such reports are available un- 
der the Freedom of Information Act. 

19. The Carter Malaise 

Ari Ben-Menashe initially contacted the author in August 1990 and was 
first interviewed in Cincinnati, Ohio, on April 11, 1991. He was subsequently 
interviewed in Washington and many more times by telephone. For a defini- 
tive account of the character of Menachem Begin, see The Life and Times of 
Menachem Begin, by Amos Perlmutter (Doubleday, Garden City, NY, 1987). 
Malcolm Toon was interviewed by telephone on May 20, 1991; his cable to 
Washington about the senatorial visit was made available under the Freedom 
of Information Act. The footnote about Vanunu and the senators' rebuff was 
reported in Triple Cross. George Rathjens was interviewed by telephone on 
March 25, 1989, and thereafter. Bergmann's speech in South Africa is cited in 
The Unnatural Alliance, among other places. Vorster's visit to Israel created a 
minor stir at the time: see "Vorster Visit to Israel Arouses Criticism," by 
Terence Smith, New York Times, April 18, 1976. The best account of the Carter 
administration's diplomacy on the 1977 Kalahari test was written by Murrey 
Marder and Don Oberdorfer of the Washington Post; see their story as syndi- 

332 NOTES 

cated in the Philadelphia Inquirer for September 4, 1977, "How the Powers 
Stopped a Test," page 1. The CIA's assessment of the attempted 1977 test was 
provided under the Freedom of Information Act to the Natural Resources 
Defense Council and made available to the press by the council on September 
26, 1990. Harold Brown discussed the Israeli joint targeting request by tele- 
phone on April 26, 1991; he was previously interviewed in Washington on 
October 20, 1989. 

20 An Israeli Test 

There have been some excellent critiques of the White House's attempt, 
through the Ruina panel, to wish away the Israeli-South African test. See 
"The September 22, 1979, Mystery Flash: Did South Africa Detonate a Nu- 
clear Bomb?" unpublished study by the Washington Office on Africa Educa- 
tional Fund, May 21, 1985. The study was written by Ronald Walters of 
Howard University. See also an unpublished study by Gary Milhollin (avail- 
able through the Wisconsin Project on Nuclear Arms Control): "The Vela 
Sighting in 1979." Stephen Green, in Living by the Sword (Amana Books, Brat- 
tleboro, Vt., 1988), dissects the Ruina report beginning at page in. Gerald 
Oplinger was interviewed at his suburban Virginia home on January 9, 1991. 
Spurgeon Keeny was interviewed on March 24, 1989, in Washington and 
many times by telephone thereafter. Hodding Carter was interviewed by 
telephone on August 2, 1991. See Gary Sick (cited above) for details on the 
shah's visit to the United States. Jack Ruina was interviewed by telephone on 
August 2, 1991. John Scali was interviewed by telephone on August 6, 1991. 
Admiral Walters's bizarre explanation can be found in "Pretoria Suggests 
Cause of 'Explosion,' " by John F. Burns, New York Times, October 28, 1979. 
The cited P. W. Botha remark was on page 2 of the Rand Daily Mail for 
September 26, 1979: "SA Could Have Secret Weapon, Hints PW." The July 15, 
1979, Ruina report was released by the Office of Science and Technology 
Policy in the White House and blandly entitled: "Ad Hoc Panel Report on 
the September 22 Event." Harold Agnew was interviewed by telephone on 
September 7, 1990. Louis Roddis was interviewed on May 7, 1991, and Donald 
Kerr was interviewed in Washington on February 13, 1991. Joseph Nye was 
briefly interviewed by telephone on January 2, 1991. 

21. Israel's Nuclear Spy 

The only book-length study of the Pollard affair is Territory of Lies, by Wolf 
Blitzer (Harper & Row, New York, 1989), which professionally summarizes 
all of the known and published information about the case. Blitzer, however, 
accepts far too much of Pollard's account at face value. Many of the essential 
details of Pollard's early life come from Blitzer and the press accounts at the 
time. Samuel Lewis was interviewed about the White House meeting on 
February 22, 1991. Sharon's strategic vision behind the Israeli invasion of Leb- 
anon — and its folly — is most clearly spelled out in Israels Lebanon War, by 
Ze'ev Schiff and Ehud Ya'ari (Simon & Schuster /Touchstone, New York, 
1984). Sharon's December 15, 1981, speech is available in abridged form from 
the Israeli embassy in Washington; it initially was issued as an embassy press 
bulletin. For more on the Stern Gang, see Wanted, by Mordechai Schreiber 
(Shengold Publishers, New York, 1984), beginning at page 142. 

NOTES 333 

22. An Israeli Asset 

Peter Hounam was interviewed on July 30, 1991, by telephone from Lon- 
don, and thereafter. The cited Sunday Mirror article prominently featured a 
photograph of Vanunu next to an external photograph of the reactor at 
Dimona; the story itself, although vividly displayed, was buried deep inside 
the newspaper. Robert Watters was interviewed September 3, 1991, by tele- 
phone from Suva, Fiji, where he was on assignment as an electronics techni- 
cian for the South Pacific Commission. Nicholas Davies (no relation to Nick 
Davies, a former reporter for the Independent) was interviewed by telephone 
from his home in London on July 26, 1991. Janet Fielding was interviewed by 
telephone from London on August 5, 1991. Peter Miller was interviewed by 
telephone from London on August 21 and 22, 1991. John Parker was inter- 
viewed in Washington on August 9, 1991. Tony Frost was interviewed by 
telephone from Newcastle, England, on August 6 and thereafter. The foot- 
noted material about the Miller and Frost complaints against Maxwell came 
from the U.K. Press Gazette for April 29, 1991, "Sacked Mirror Man Finds Place 
in Sun," by Jean Morgan. Michael Malloy was interviewed by telephone on 
September 2, 1991, from the Passford House Hotel in Lymington, Hampshire, 
England, where he was on vacation. 


Abrams, Creighton W., 237 
Achdut Avodah (Unity of Labor) 

Party, 38;*, 179;* 
Acheson, Dean, 151;* 
Adenauer, Konrad, 123 
Afghanistan, 6 

A-4E Skyhawk, 139, 153, 183-84 
CIA-Mossad operations in, 5, 6 
as nuclear-free zone, 152 
Palestinian sympathies in, 264 
proposed Jewish homeland in, 87 
see also North Africa 
African National Congress, 266 
Agnew, Harold M., 280 
Agnew, Spiro T., 232 
Air Force, U.S., 51;*, 53, 57, 88;*, 

162, 205 
Air Force Technical Applications 

Center (AFTAC), 272 
Al-Abram, 227, 231 
Alba, Carmelo V., 163-64, 201;* 
Algeria, 21, 36, 59, 68 
Allen, Richard V., 8-9, 14-15, 287 
Allon, Yigal, 38;*, 67, 138, 173-74, 

179, 225, 261 
Aman, 163 
American Israel Public Affairs 

Committee (AIPAC), 292 
American Jewish Committee, 87 
American Technion Society, 242 
Anderson, Jack, 236 
Angleton, James Jesus, 144-47, 163, 

185;*, 238, 250 
Angola, 13;*, 266 
anti-Semitism, 60, 76, 91, 95, 264 
Aqudas Achim synagogue, 127 
Arab Federation, 121 
Arab-Israeli conflicts: 

Lebanon War, 259, 288, 294 
Six-Day War, 13 lw, 156, 160, 166- 
67, 174, 175, 177-78, 184-85, 
222, 291 
Suez War, 38, 39, 40-44, 175, 176, 

War of Attrition, 212;*, 237 
War of Independence, 19, 113, 141 
Yom Kippur War, 179, 217, 222- 
23, 225-40, 264 
Arab League, 108, 265;* 
Arab nations: 
anti-U.S. oil embargo by, 232 
international bias for, 133 
Soviet military aid to, 7, 12, 35, 
65, 103, 128, 135, 136, 138, 139, 
153, 167, 170, 175-76, 183, 231, 
237, 294 
"three no's" of, 176 
Arens, Moshe, 295 
Argentina, 156 
Arms Control and Disarmament 

Agency (ACDA), 272 
arms control talks, 74, 274, 275 
see also Nuclear Nonproliferation 
Arms Export Control Act (1976), 

260;*, 262 
Army, U.S., 83, 162, 163 
Aronson, Shlomo, 177 
Arthur D. Little Company, 216;* 
Atlantic Richfield Company 

(ARCO), 248 
Atomic Energy Act (1946), 125» 
Atomic Energy Act (1954), 20, 243 
Atomic Energy Commission (AEC), 
U.S., 71, 87, 89, 92, 169 
dissolution of, 251 



Atomic Energy Commission (AEC), 
U.S. (cont.) 

formation and responsibilities of, 

Livermore Laboratory and, 91 
NUMEC and, 242, 244, 245^8, 

253, 254 
uranium processing safeguards of, 

244, 251 
U-2 intelligence and, 54-55 
Atomic Energy Commission 

(France), 19, 28, 30, 31, 36, 37, 
39, 60, 64 
Atomic Energy Commission (Israel), 
19, 20, 57, 79, 86, 88, 104, 109, 
141-42, 173/* 
Atoms for Peace, 20, 132/*, 242 
Auschwitz-Birkenau, 88/* 
Ayalon Museum, 196 

Babcock & Wilcox, 252, 253/*, 256- 

Bader, William B., 13-14 
Baker, James A., Ill, 9 
Baku, 216 

Balfour Declaration, 35/* 
Ball, George, 101 
Bandung Conference (1955), 35 
Bank Leumi, 171 

Barbour, Walworth, 164, 165, 178, 
184, 189 
as Bank Leumi board member, 

Dimona reconnaissance curtailed 

by, 160, 168, 169, 170 
Israeli sympathies of, 159, 161, 

163, 167, 171 
Johnson's assignment to, 160, 161 
length of ambassadorship of, 159 
physical appearance of, 159 
Barnaby, Frank, 199/* 
Barnet, Richard J., 75/* 
Bar-on, Hanan, 304 
Bartlett, Charles L., 96-97, 99, 117 
Baruch, Bernard, 87 
Bar-Zohar, Michael, 22, 45, 55, 78/*, 

B'chia Ledoroty 140 
Begin, Menachem, 4, 15, 38/*, 185, 
275, 293, 298/* 
anti-Communism of, 260 
background of, 260 

election of, 259, 269, 299 
in EshkoFs government, 167 
Israeli nuclear weapons program 

and, 260 
militarism of, 259 
resignation of, 296 
Sadat's summit with, 4, 269 
strategic cooperation proposal to 

U.S. by, 287-88 
Beirut, 288 
Belgium, 180, 181 
Ben, Max, 165, 180 
Ben-Gurion, David, 26, 45, 146, 167, 

185, 195, 259, 298/* 
Adenauer's secret negotiations 

with, 123 
Begin and, 275 
as defense minister, 34-35 
de Gaulle and, 68-69, 77 
Dimona cover-up and, 78, 93, 

ein brera fears of, 22, 37 
end of public role of, 141 
Israeli nuclear weapons program 

and, 20, 22, 23, 27, 29, 31, 33- 

34, 39, 44, 45, 59, 66, 67-70, 

129-30, 135-36, 275-76 
Kennedy and, 100-104, 106, 114, 

117, 120-21, 124 
Mapai Party controlled by, 33 
political scandals and resignations 

of, 117, 121-24 
Rafi Party founded by, 139 
second term of, 37, 39 
Suez War and, 38, 41, 42, 43 
temporary retirement of, 33-34 
U.S. and, 21, 22, 27,41, 55 
Ben-Menashe, Ari, 260, 264, 265, 

275-76, 292, 295, 297-99 
Vanunu case and, 309-15 
Bentov, Cindy Hanin (pseudonym), 

193, 315 
Bergmann, Ernst David, 165, 180 
background and early career of, 

19, 23-25 
Dimona cover-up and, 79, 103-4 
forced government resignation of, 

26, 86, 141 
government positions held by, 19, 

23, 26 
Israeli nuclear weapons program 

and, 19-32, 34, 36, 37, 39, 44-45, 



59, 61, 93, 104, 135-36, 154, 174, 
as Rafi Party founding member, 

Shapiro and, 243, 248-49 
Strauss's secret friendship with, 
85-86, 88, 142 
Bergmann, Hani, 25 
Berlin tunnel, 56 
Bethe, Hans, 206 
"black" squadrons, 301 
Blake, George, 56n 
Blumberg, Binyamin, 62, 131, 138, 

205, 243, 250, 288 
B'nai B'rith, 146 
"boosted" fission weapons, 200 
"Bor," 225 

Border Patrol, U.S., 310 
Botha, P. W., 278/j, 279 
Braderman, Eugene M., 166 
Bradlee, Benjamin C, Jr., 96n 
Brandeis University, 101 
Brezhnev, Leonid, 232, 267 
Brooklyn Polytechnic Institute, 23, 

Brown, Harold, 270, 278 
Brugioni, Dino A., 50, 63, 88w, 91, 
background of, 47 
U-2 Dimona reconnaissance and, 
52-53, 55-58, 72, 73, 90, 100, 
132/j, 143, 147 
Brzezinski, Zbigniew, 272, 273, 278 
Buchwald, Art, 72n 
Bulganin, Nikolai, 41 
Bull, Gerald, 216 
Bundy, McGeorge, 99, 105, 125-26, 

133, 134, 149, 150, 152, \S5n 
Bush, George, 9, 239-40 

Camp David summit (1978), 4, 6, 

269, 275 
Canada, 37, 39, 164, 168 
cannons, long-range, 216-17 
Cape National Party (South Africa), 

Carter, Hodding, III, 274 
Carter, Jimmy, 88w, 27 Sn 
codework clearances frozen by, 

election of, 3 
Iran toasted by, 6, 274 

Israeli-U.S. intelligence liaison 

agreement and, 3-4, 13w 
nuclear fuel reprocessing ban 

upheld by, 27 3 n 
South African nuclear weapons 

program protested by, 267-68 
Carter administration, 23 

Israeli nuclear weapons policy of, 

260-63, 266-70 
Israeli view of, 5 
Israel-U.S. intelligence liaison 

agreement and, 3-7 
nuclear nonproliferation stance 

of, 261-63, 268 
South African-Israeli nuclear test 

cover-up by, 271-83 
Casey, William J., 12-13, 16 
Cella, Glenn R., 213-14 
Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), 

covert financing by, 5, 145 
Dimona reconnaissance by, 50, 

51, 52-58, 63, 72, 73, 76, 90, 99w, 

100, 106-7, 112, 132/j, 143, 147- 

48, 156-57, 162-63, 186-89, 198- 

99, 212, 213, 231, 235 
disconnects in intelligence 

processing by, 157, 237, 291 
domestic operations by, 250 
government coups and, 42w 
inaccurate predictions by, 6, 13w 
intelligence leaks from, 7w-8w, 16, 

Israeli bombing raid reviewed by, 

13, 16 
Jews in, 89, 145-46 
Mossad's joint ventures with, 5-6, 

National Photo Interpretation 

Center of, 107, 156, 283 
nuclear intelligence shifted from, 

NUMEC uranium alleged 

diversion and, 187, 241, 243, 

247, 252, 254 
Office of National Estimates 

(ONE) of, 147-48 
Office of Science and Technology 

of, 156-57, 187, 235 
Photographic Intelligence 

Division of, 47, 50, 51, 54 
proprietary companies of, 146 



Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) 
Six-Day War and Israeli 

operations of, 168/* 
South African-Israeli nuclear test 

and, 272, 273 
Special National Intelligence 

Estimate (SNIE) by, 282 
trash analyzed by, 146 
chain reactions, 28, 201 
at Dimona, 119, 164 
CHAOS, Operation, 144/*, 145, 146, 

chemical and biological weapons 
(CBW), 63-64, 136, 216, 260/* 
chemical reprocessing plants: 
at Dimona, 37, 43, 56-57, 61, 69, 
106, 111, 118, 120, 130, 131, 163, 
180/*, 188, 196-97, 198, 200, 201, 
202, 247, 254, 282 
at Marcoule, 29, 56-57 
nuclear weapons manufacturing 
role of, 29, 37, 56, 120 
CHESS U-2 photographs, 48 
China, People's Republic of, 153, 
155, 216/* 
Egypt and, 35, 138 
IAEA and, 133 
McCone's proposed air strike 

against, 150-51 
nuclear weapons program of, 
148^9, 246, 271 
Chou En-lai, 35 

Clifford, Clark, 95, 168/*, 189, 190-91 
Cockburn, Andrew, 256 
Cockburn, Leslie, 256 
codework clearances, 13/*-14/* 
Colby, William, 230, 233/* 
Cold War, 21, 27, 128, 215 
CIA-Mossad joint ventures as 

secret in, 5 
Middle East and, 139, 145, 175-76 
Commentary, 137/* 
Commerce Department, U.S., 242, 

Committee for the Denuclearization 

of the Middle East, 109 
Committee of Thirty, 66 
computer industry, computers, 137, 

Congregation Emanu-El, 86 

Congress, U.S., 125/*, 169, 212, 233, 

256, 262, 263 
Conran, James H., 251 
"Consequences of Israeli 

Acquisition of Nuclear 

Capability," 148 
CORONA reconnaissance satellite, 

Cosmos reconnaissance satellite, 267 
Counsel to the President (Clifford), 191 
Couve de Murville, Maurice, 68, 69, 

Cowan, George A., 206 
Crawford, William R., 100-101, 106 
Critchfield, James, 185/* 
Cuba, 275 

Cuban missile crisis, 50/*, 126/* 
Culler, Floyd L., Jr., Dimona 

inspections by, 112-13, 131, 133, 

140/*, 151, 154, 196, 210, 215 
Cytex Corporation, 312 

Dachau, 127 

Daily Express (London), 76 

Dale, William N., 161, 164, 165-66, 

168, 169, 170, 189 
Daily Mirror (London), 309, 311, 313 
Danger and Survival (Bundy), 150/* 
Dangerous Liaison (Cockburn and 

Cockburn), 256 
Daniel Sieff Institute, 25/* 
Dassault Company, 120, 143, 173, 

Davies, Nicholas, 309-10, 315 
Dayan, Moshe, 34, 39, 117, 220, 221, 
antiquities appropriated by, 218 
on Arab military strength, 220, 

as army chief of staff, 3 3 
Israeli nuclear weapons program 
and, 67/*, 129, 141, 174-75, 176- 
77, 178, 179-80, 189 
La von Affair and, 122-23 
in Ran Party, 139 
secret South African trip of, 264- 

as security risk, 218 
Six-Day War and, 167, 174, 185 
Suez War and, 38 
Yom Kippur War and, 222, 223, 
225, 226, 227 



Defense Department, U.S., 125, 
143, 183, 186, 211, 214, 256-57 
Advanced Research Project 

Agency (ARPA) of, 276 
Institute for Defense Analysis 

(IDA) of, 276 
National Military Command 

Center of, 272 
Office of Net Assessments of, 
269-70, 278 
Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA), 

6, 13, 143^4, 198, 272-73 
de Gaulle, Charles, 29, 75n, 77, 
\26n y 175 
Dimona opposed by, 59-60, 61, 
68, 69-70, 120, 263 
demarches, 75 

Democratic Party, 27, 93, 95, 96, 192 
desalinated water, 20, 63, 64, 85, 

154, 2Un-\2n, 249 
Desert Storm, Operation, 20 In 
Deshalit, Amos, 25-26, 79, 102, 144, 

147, 180 
Deshalit, Meir (Meme), 144, 147 
Detachment 515, 219 

see also Unit 8200 
deuterium, 49, 200 
Deux Bombes, Les (Pean), (An, 263 
diGenova, Joseph E., 305 
Dimona nuclear weapons facility, 
25fl, 31,91, 195-207 
chemical reprocessing plant at, 
37,43, 56-57,61,69, 106, 111, 

118, 120, 130, 131, 163, 180h, 
188, 196-97, 198, 200, 201, 202, 
247, 254, 282 

CIA reconnaissance of, 50, 51, 52- 
58, 63, 72, 73, 76, 90, 99a, 100, 
106-7, 112, 132h, 143, 147-48, 
156-57, 162-63, 186-89, 198-99, 
212, 213, 231, 235 

cooling capacity of, 199, 282 

cost and financing of, 65-67, 93, 
124, 136, 192** 

cover-up stories on, 63, 72, 78, 

119, 130 

economic effects of, 59, 67-68, 137 
ethnic and national tensions in 

construction of, 60-61 
false control room of, 111 
first bomb assembled at, 179-80 
formal authorization for, 43 n 

France's role at, 11, 16, 43h, 56, 

59-65, 68-70, 72, 75, 76, 106, 

119rt, 130, 145, 211, 307 
fuel for, 156 

governmental ignorance of, 206-7 
heavy water used for, 77, 103, 

104, 111 
institutes (Machons) of, 201-2, 219 
international inspections sought 

for, 69, 80, 100-101, 106, 108, 

117, 124, 128, 129, 132, 135, 136, 

153, 154-55, 186, 212 
location of, 11, 33, 45 
Norway's inspection of, 77, 103 
objections to, 59, 65, 67, 78, 79, 

93, 109, 137-38 
planes shot down over, 131h 
production capability of, 45, 119- 

20, 156, 202, 203-4, 282 
secrecy of, 11, 37, 46, 57, 61, 62- 

63, 64-65, 66, 79, 91, 93, 103-4, 

108-15, 131-32, 148 
security precautions at, 62, 130— 

31, 197 
staff of, 68, 197 
sustained chain reaction achieved 

at, 119, 164 
temporary closure of, 1 1 
U.S. embassy intelligence on, 57, 

160, 162, 163-64, 165-66, 168- 

69, 184, 247 
U.S. given inside photos of, 290- 

U.S. inspections of, 94, 98, 102, 

104, 109-15, 131, 133, 140h, 143, 

151, 153, 154, 169, 196, 210-11, 

215, 262 
Vanunu's revelations about, 196, 

Dinitz, Simcha, 228-29, 236 
downlinks, 14, 15, 16 
"dual loyalty," 89-92, 241 
Duckett, Carl E., 189, 214, 237 
Israeli nuclear intelligence 

reports by, 156-57, 186-87, 212, 

231, 235, 240, 282 
NUMEC uranium alleged 

diversion and, 188, 241, 247, 

250, 251-56 
public revelations by, 239-40, 261 
suppression of intelligence 

reports by, 212, 213 



Duckett, Carl E. (cont.) 

Teller and, 186-87, 250, 254 
Dulles, Allen, 50, 51, 54, 58, 76, 105, 

Dulles, John Foster, 50, 54, 74, 75 

Eastern Europe: 
Israeli diplomatic relations 

severed by, 175 
emigration to Israel from, 145, 
Eban, Abba, 38/*, 191 
Edelman, Peter B., 98/* 
Eden, Anthony, 41 
Egypt, 3, 34, 110, 121, 154, 194, 296 
in Arab Federation, 121 
guerrilla warfare between Israel 

and, 35, 36 
Kennedy and, 102-3, 107-8 
military spending by, 65 
Nasser's coup in, 21, 104 
nuclear weapons and, 67, 69, 101, 

129-30, 133, 138, 152, 153/* 
secret negotiations between Israel 

and, 33, 34, 35 
Six-Day War and, 166, 167, 175 
Soviet military aid to, 35, 65, 103, 
139, 167, 170, 175, 183, 231, 237 
Soviets ousted from, 221 
Suez War and, 38, 39, 40 
in United Arab Republic, 51, 53, 

133, 135 
War of Attrition and, 212/*, 237 
West Germany military aid to, 

Yom Kippur War and, 222, 225, 
227, 229, 231-32, 233, 235n 
Eichmann, Adolf, 289 
82nd Airborne Division, U.S., 233 
Eilts, Hermann F., 229, 230 
ein brera, 22-23, 37 
Einstein, Albert, 25/*, \02n 
Eisenhower, Dwight D., 23, 73, 84, 
Atomic Energy Act amended by, 

Dimona denial accepted by, 80 
Israeli arms embargo maintained 

by, 22 
Kennedy advised by, 106 
Peres on, 41-42 
Powers incident and, 74 

Strait of Tiran commitment of, 

Strauss supported by, 84, 85, 87, 

Suez War and, 38, 41-43 
U-2 Dimona reconnaissance and, 

54, 58, 76 
U-2 program initiated and ended 

by, 47, 76 
U-2 Soviet reconnaissance and, 
47, 48, 50, 51 
Eisenhower administration: 
Dimona leak and, 73, 79-80 
Israeli nuclear weapons 
development and, 20, 53-58, 64, 
Suez War and, 40-44 
Tripartite Agreement and, 22 
Eisenhower Library, 53n, 55n 
Eitan, Rafael (Ran), 288-89, 292, 

294-95, 296, 297, 300, 301 
Elazar, David, 225, 226, 236-37 
Elder, Walter N., 73, 105-6, 107, 

126/*, 150, 151 
elections, U.S.: 
of 1948, 93, 94-95 
of 1952, 95 
of 1956, 95 
of 1960, 95-98 
of 1964, 149, 193 
of 1968, 189, 191 
of 1976, 3 
of 1980, 274, 275 
11-38 intelligence review, 286 
el-Gamasy, Mohammed Abdel 

Ghany, 227 
Ellsberg, Daniel, 125, 126, 150-51 
El 2 nuclear reactor, 39 
El 102 nuclear reactor, see Dimona 

nuclear weapons facility 
Energy Department, U.S., 84, 281 
Eniwetok nuclear test site, 49 
Eshkol, Levi, 38/*, 125, 173/*, 192/*, 
Johnson and, 86, 130, 132, 134-35, 

136, 139, 154, 166, 183, 186 
La von Affair and, 122 
nuclear weapons objections of, 37, 

65, 79, 86, 124, 136 
nuclear weapons policy of, 129, 

130, 133-42, 162, 180/* 
on occupied territories, 185 



political reforms of, 124 
as prime minister, 37, 124 
Six-Day War and, 166-67 

Euratom, 180-81 

Evron, Ephraim, 186 

Farley, Philip J., 75 
Fatah, El, 249 

Federal Bureau of Investigation 
(FBI), 85, 243, 247, 248, 250, 
252, 253 
Feinberg, Abraham, 160, 185 
background of, 93 
Bergmann and, 27, 93 
Coca-Cola franchise of, 192 
Dimona cover-up and, 108-9, 111 
Dimona fund-raising by, 66, 93, 

Hagannah fund-raising by, 195-96 
Johnson and, 98/*, 126, 190-91, 

192, 193, 194 
Kennedy and, 93, 94, 95-98, 100, 

101-2, 103, 111 
Truman and, 93, 94-95, 126 
Feinberg, Wilfred, 98 
Feldman, Myer (Mike), 98-100, 108, 

141/*, 192-93 
F-4 Phantom, 183-84, 186, 189, 190, 
191, 192, 194, 211, 213, 216, 222, 
F-15 Eagle, 294 

F-16 Fighting Falcon, 8-9, 294, 301 
Fielding, Janet, 311 
Finney, John W.: 
on Dimona inspections, 140/*, 154 
Dimona story leaked to, 71-73, 
74, 77/* 
fission vs. fusion, in nuclear 

weapons, 48^49 
Flapan, Simha, 138 
force defrappe, 44, 60, 75/*, 126/*, 152, 

Ford, Gerald R., 3, 5, 239, 273/* 
Ford administration, 252, 261, 269 
Fortas, Abe, 126 
Fox, Raymond, 91 
France, 24, 133 
arms sales to Israel by, 36, 65, 69, 

Communist Party in, 21,^27 
decolonization by, 21, 36 
Dimona role of, 11, 16, 43/*, 56, 

59-65, 68-70, 72, 75, 76, 106, 

119/*, 130, 145, 211, 307 
elections in, 43/* 
heavy water sales of, 111 
Israeli arms embargo by U.S. 

and, 183 
joint anti-Soviet nuclear targeting 

proposed to U.S. by, 270/* 
military deals between Iraq and, 

16, 64/* 
NATO and, 27, 36, 44, 126/* 
nuclear deterrent of, 44, 60, 75/*, 

126/*, 152, 176 
Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty 

and, 209 
in Nuclear Suppliers Group, 267 
nuclear weapons program of, 28- 

31,63,66, 125, 145, 271 
nuclear weapons program of 

Israel and, 11, 16, 23, 27^6, 59- 

65,68-70, 118-19, 155, 263 
Suez War and, 38, 40^3 
in Tripartite Agreement, 21-22 
Frankfurter Allgemeine, 175 
Freedom of Information Act (1974), 

80, 253/* 
Freier, Shalheveth, 218-19, 226 
French Air Force, 64 
Frost, Tony, 313-14 
fusion vs. fission, in nuclear 

weapons, 48^49 

Gahal Party, 38/* 

Galili, Yisrael, 38/*, 225 

Gallois, Pierre, 44 

GAMBIT reconnaissance satellite, 

Garment, Leonard, 303-5 
Garment, Suzanne, 304 
Gates, Robert M., 260/* 
Gaza Strip, 35, 113, 115, 118, 167, 

General Accounting Office (GAO), 

253, 256 
General Zionist Party, 38/* 
Germany, Federal Republic of 

(West), 48, 123, 133, 152, 209-10, 

Germany, Nazi, 24, 88/*, 123, 127, 

Germany, occupied, 47 



Gilinsky, Victor, 251-52, 262n, 287- 

Gilpatric, Roswell L., 151-52, 153 
Gilpatric report, 151-52, 153 
Golan, Matti, 45 
Golan Heights, 167, 184, 231, 238h, 

Goldschmidt, Bertrand, 30-32, 39- 

40,68, 119 
Gomolak, Louis S., I27n 
Goodpaster, Andrew J., 55n 
Government Communications 
Headquarters (GCHC& In 
Graham, Thomas W., 65-66 
Great Britain, 164, 168 
Balfour Declaration and, 35n 
decolonization by, 21 
intelligence leak in, In 
Israeli guerrilla war against, 195- 

96, 259, 298h 
in Nuclear Suppliers Group, 267 
nuclear weapons program of, 28, 

12 5n-26n 
Suez War and, 38, 40-42 
in Tripartite Agreement, 21-22 
U.S. intelligence relationship 
with, 3, 7 
Guatemala, 42 n 
Guerrero, Oscar E., 309, 311 
Guillaumat, Pierre, 28, 29, 31-32, 39 
Gur, Mordecai, 228, 295n 

ha 'anoseh ha 'adin, 140 

Hadden, John L., 161-62, 164, 247, 

253, 254, 256 
Hagannah, 24, 141, 195-96 
Haifa, 130, 177, 203, 223 
Haig, Alexander M., Jr., %n-9n, 14, 

Halevy, David, 180h 
Halperin, Morton H., 210 
Halpern, Samuel, 146 
Harman, Avraham, 74, 75-76, 77 
Hawk missiles, 103, 109-10, 118, 119 
heavy water, 19, 30, 31, 39, 64, 77, 

103, 104, 111, 200,201 
Heikal, Mohammed, 227, 229, 230- 

31, 235n 
Helms, Richard M., 186, 188-89, 

212, 214, 241, 247, 250, 255 
Herter, Christian A., 74-75, 80 
Herut Party, 38w, 299 

Herzog, Chaim, 264 

Hickenlooper, Bourke B., 80-81 

Hirbat Zachariah, 173, 216, 225, 231 

Hiroshima, 46, 48 

Histadrut, 122 

Hitler, Adolf, 22, 139, 221 

Hod, Mordecai, 190 

Hon, Yitzhak, 9, 11, 295 

Holocaust, 195 

Jewish consciousness of, 10, 22- 
23, 27, 30, 37, 42, 136, 138, 226 

reparations paid to Israel for, 

Strauss's feelings about, 83, 86-87, 

89, 91 

Hoover, J. Edgar, 250 

Hounam, Peter, 308, 309 

House Subcommittee on Oversight 

and Investigations, 253 
HUMINT, 147 
Humphrey, Hubert H., 209 
Hussein, King of Jordan, 185h, 289 
hydrogen bombs, 49-50, 84, 200 
Hyland, William G., 229 

I.G. Farben, $$n 

India, 37, 39, 65, 61 n, 149, I50n, 

153n, 261 n 
Institute for Advanced Studies, 86, 

Institute of Nuclear Science, 25n 
Intelligence Advisory Committee, 

U.S., 73 
intelligence and warning (I&W), 6 
intelligence community: 
Israel-France relationship in, 36, 

Israeli scandals in, 34, 61-62 
Israel-U.S. relationship in, 3-17, 

90, 162, 292 

leaks in, ln-$n, 16, llln 

passing unwanted information in, 
5ln-52n, 143-44, 238, 239-40 
International Assembly on Nuclear 

Weapons (1966), 15 5n 
International Atomic Energy 
Agency (IAEA), 11, 266 

Dimona inspections and, 69, 80, 
100-101, 106, 108, 110, 117, 124, 
128, 129, 131, 132, 133-34, 135, 
136, 153, 154-55, 186, 212 



uranium ore shipments 

monitored by, 156 
International Institute for Strategic 

Studies (IISS), 155/* 
Iran, 6, 42/*, 220/*, 260/*, 274/* 

Israeli arms sales to, 298, 309-10 
Iran-Iraq War, 309 
Iraq, 175 
in Arab Federation, 121 
Israeli bombing raid in, 8-10, 11, 

12, 13, 16, (An, 259, 286 
military deals between France 

and, 16, (An 
nuclear capability of, 9-10 
Persian Gulf War and, 201/* 
Qassem's coup in, 51 
Soviet military aid to, 7, 12 
"supergun" of, 2l6n 
U.S. arms sales to, 260n 
Irgun, 259, 298/* 
business deals awarded in, 192 
Carter administration as viewed 

by, 5 
censorship in, 11, 180/*, 223 
CIA leaks to, 16 
creation of, 89, 146 
denial of nuclear weapons 

intentions by, 69 
diplomatic recognition of, 21/*, 94 
"dual loyalty" and, 89-92 
elections in, 37, 38/*, 104, 123/*, 

139-40, 141, 259, 269, 296 
espionage activities in U.S. by, 

90, 162, 292 
first nuclear missile field of, 173 
French arms sales to, 36, 65, 69, 

F-16 deal between U.S. and, 8-9 
Greater (Eretz), 38/*, 185 
guerrilla warfare between Egypt 

and, 35, 36 
heavy water purchased from 

Norway by, 77 
intelligence service of, see Mossad 
Iranian arms purchases from, 298, 

Iraqi nuclear reactor bombed by, 

8-10, 11, 12, 13, 16, 64/*, 259, 

isolation felt by, 175, 264 
joint anti-Soviet nuclear targeting 

proposed to U.S. by, 269-70, 

Kennedy's defense commitment 

to, 117-18 
KGB penetration of, 219-20 
KH-11 reconnaissance 

photographs given to, 3-17 
labor union strength in, 66, 122, 

military budget of, 136, 174, 179, 

military intelligence service of, 

national security doctrine of, 301 
nonespionage agreement between 

U.S. and, 90 
nuclear blackmail by, 223, 225^40 
nuclear weapons program of 

France and, 11, 16, 23, 27^6, 

59-65, 68-70, 118-19, 155, 263 
nuclear weapons program of 

South Africa and, 155, 263-68, 

270, 271-83 
nuclear weapons spending by, 67 
nuclear weapons strategy of, 16- 

17, 66, 91-92, 217 
occupied territories and, 167, 184- 

86, 259, 264 
parliament of, see Knesset 
party politics of, 38/*, 139-40, 

179/*, 259, 296 
public debate on nuclear weapons 

policy in, 129-30, 131, 138, 142 
rocket program of, 104, 120 
secret nuclear weapons 

conferences in, 136, 138-39 
South African uranium ore 

purchases by, 156, 264, 266 
Soviet and East European 

emigration to, 145, 163 
Soviet nuclear targeting of, 177 
Soviet Union as nuclear target of, 

16-17, 66, 139, 174-75, 176-77, 

214, 216, 220-21, 260, 261, 270, 

285, 287, 301 
Soviet Union's relationship with, 

21/*, 61, 175 
Suez War and, 38, 39, 40-44 
tourism in, 178 
U.S. arms sales to, 8-9, 103, 108- 

10, 118, 119, 133, 135, 139, 153, 



Israel (cont.) 

183-84, 186, 189-92, 211,213, 
216, 221 
U.S. commitments to, 176, 177, 

178, 183 
U.S. -French arms embargo 

against, 183 
U.S. Jewish aid to, 20, 21, 58, 66, 

90, 93, 178 
U.S. Jewish emigration to, 58, 91 
U.S. lobby of, 27, 74, 96-97, 178 
U.S. nuclear umbrella sought by, 

21-23, 38,44, 55, 113 
West German arms deals with, 
123, 133 
Israel and Nuclear Weapons (Jabber), 

Israel Bond Organization, 93 
Israel Chemicals Company, 300 
Israeli Air Force, 10, 12, 131, 167, 

188, 216, 217, 288, 294 
Israeli Army, 40-41, 7Sn 
Israeli Defense Force, 61, 131, 156, 
201, 216, 232, 271, 276*, 289 
External Relations Department 
of, 260n, 276, 292, 295 
Israeli Navy, 293 
Italy, 21, 159*, 298* 

Jabber, Fuad, 155tf 

Jabotinsky, Vladimir, 185 

Japan, 47, 137, 210, 218 

Jenkins, Walter W., 192-94 

Jericho I missiles, 120, 125, 143, 173, 

175, 212, 216, 301 
Jerusalem, 167, 184-85, 259 
Jessup, Peter C, 163, 238 

in Afghanistan and Iran, 6 

African homeland proposed for, 

in France's science community, 

Johnson's aid to, 127-28 

Kennedy and, 96-98, 103 

in North Africa, 36, 60-61 

in South Africa, 264 
Jews, U.S., 42* 

Angleton's index on, 145-46 

Ben-Gurion's loss of faith in, 41 

in CIA, 89, 145-^6 

"dual loyalty" and, 89-92, 241 

emigration to Israel by, 58, 91 
financial aid to Israel from, 20, 

21, 58, 66, 90, 93 
Johnson and, 127-28, 151, 191 
as lobbyists, 27, 74, 96-97 
as refugees, 127-28 
Vietnam War opposed by, 191 
John F. Kennedy, USS, 233 
John F. Kennedy Library, 99, 148 
Johnson, Lady Bird, 127, 128 
Johnson, Lyndon B., 178, 183-94, 
Barbour's assignment from, 160, 

Bundy's misleading of, 133 
cash contributions and, 194 
Dimona intelligence reports 
supposed by, 188-89, 212 
election of, 149 

Eshkol pressured by, 86, 130, 132, 
134-35, 136, 139, 154, 166, 183, 
Feinberg and, 9Sn, 126, 190-91, 

192, 193, 194 
Jewish refugees aided by, 127-28 
Kennedy's exclusion of, 126 
nuclear nonproliferation policy 
of, 128, 149, 151-53, 191, 209 
Vietnam War and, 99, 128, 151, 
153, 191 
Johnson administration: 

Israeli nuclear weapons policy of, 

143-57, 183-94 
public vs. private nuclear 
proliferation stance of, 148-53 
Joint Atomic Energy Commission, 

214h, 242-^3, 246 
Joint Chiefs of Staff, 84 
Joint Committee on Atomic 

Energy, 76, 81 
Joliot-Curie, Frederic, 27-28 
Jones, Curtis F., 215 
Jordan, 3, 167, 175, 184, 201*, 289, 

Justice Department, U.S., 285, 303, 

Kafkafi, Jeruham, 255 
Kalb, Bernard, 234 
Kalb, Marvin, 234 
Kampiles, William T., 7n-$n 
Katzenbach, Nicholas D., 185tf 



Katzir, Aharon (Aharon 

Katchalsky), 26, 205, 218 
Kaysen, Carl, 86, 98, 99 
Keating, Kenneth B., 222 
Keeny, Spurgeon M., Jr., 272-73, 

277, 281-82 
Kelly Field, 5ln 

Kennedy, John F., 50n, 150, 159, 275 
assassination of, 126 
Ben-Gurion and, 100-104, 106, 

114, 117, 120-21, 124 
Dimona inspection sought by, 76, 

81, 98, 100-15, 130, 131 
Egypt rapprochement sought by, 

102-3, 107-8 
Feinberg and, 93, 94, 95-98, 100, 

101-2, 103, 111 
Eisenhower's foreign affairs 

advice to, 106 
Meir and, 117-18, 135 
Middle East policy of, 113-14, 135 
nuclear nonproliferation policy 
of, 117, 118, 125, 163 
Kennedy, Joseph P., 95, 96, 103 
Kennedy, Robert F., 98h, 99-100, 

Kennedy administration: 
disharmony in, 99 
Israeli nuclear weapons policy of, 

non-espionage agreement between 

Israel and, 90 
nuclear test ban and, 85, 105 
Kerr, Donald M., Jr., 280-81 
KGB, 219-20, 299 
Khartoum Arab summit (1967), 176 
Khrushchev, Nikita, 74, 102 
KH-11 reconnaissance satellite, 231, 
283, 290, 292 
description of, 4h 
Hirbat Zachariah reconnaissance 

by, 231 
intelligence leaks about, 7n-Sn 
Israeli access to photographs by, 

Israeli downlink sought for, 15, 

Pollard spy case and, 296, 297 
Soviet reconnaissance by, 13, 15, 
16, 17 
Kibbutzim, 140 
Kibiya massacre, 7Sn 

King David Hotel, bombing of, 259 

Kissinger, Henry A.: 

Israeli nuclear weapons policy of, 

168-69, 209-12, 235 
Middle East policy of, 177 
Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty 

undermined by, 209-10 
on Sadat, 221 

shuttle diplomacy of, 230, 236 
Yom Kippur War and, 227-37 

Kissinger (Kalb and Kalb), 234 

KK Mountain, 5, 145 

Knesset, 22, 37, 78-79, 122, 139, 141, 
154, \55n, 179w, 288, 299 

Kollek, Teddy, 141h, 184 

Komer, Robert W., 99, 134, 135 

Kosygin, Alexei N., 232 

Kramish, Arnold, 169 

Kratzer, Myron B., 77, 89 

Kremlin, U-2 photos of, 48 

Krock, Arthur, 71 

krytrons, 213 

Labor Party (Israel), 38h, 179, 259, 

296, 301 
Labour Party (Great Britain), 41 
LAKAM, see Office of Special Tasks 
laser uranium enrichment, 201, 219 
Latin America, as nuclear-free zone, 

Lavon, Pinhas, 33, 34, 79, 109, 122 
Lavon Affair, 34, 121-22, 124, 139, 

Lebanon, 3, 51 
Lebanon War, 259, 288, 294 
Leinsdorf, Erich, 127 
Leor, Yisrael "Gingy," 225, 226-27 
Lewis, Samuel W., 286, 287-88, 295 
Liberty, USS, 167-68 
Likud Party, 38h, 259, 264, 296 
Limited Test Ban Treaty (1963), 

lithium, 52, 202 
lithium deuteride, 49, 200 
lithium 6, 200, 201 
Lawrence Livermore Laboratory, 

24tf, 91, 145, 155, 156, 198, 206, 

266, 291 
Lockheed Aircraft Company, 47 
Long, David E., 214-15 
Los Alamos, 145, 199, 206 



Los Alamos (cont) 
intelligence operations at, 155, 

156, 266 
VELA nuclear detection satellite 

and, 273, 280 
see also Manhattan Project 
Lovett, James E., 248 
Low Altitude Bombing System 

(LABS), 194 
Lowenthal, David, 247, 254-55 
loyalty oaths, 84 
Lucet, Charles, 118-19 
Lundahl, Arthur C, 47, 50, 63, 74, 
as NPIC head, 107 
U-2 Dimona reconnaissance and, 
53-56, 58, 72, 73, 100, 143, 147 
Lyndon B. Johnson Library, 132, 
135, 167, 16Sn, 178, 192 

Maariv, 129, 142, 312 
McCone, John A., 126n, 134 
as AEC chairman, 71, 73 
AEC resignation of, 72, 77 
as CIA director, 73, 76, 93, 105, 

150-51, 163 
death of, 73 
Dimona story leaked to Finney 

by, 71-73, 74, 11 n 
Israeli nuclear weapons program 

opposed by, 93, 118-19 
Johnson and, 151 
Kennedy and, 105-6, 150 
Strauss and, 73, 83, 89, 91, 92 
Machon 2, see Dimona nuclear 
weapons facility, chemical 
reprocessing plant at 
Macmillan, Harold, \26n 
McNamara, Robert S., 108-9, 126a, 

149, 150, 188-89 
McPherson, Harry C, 186 
Malloy, Michael, 313-14 
Manhattan Project, 23, 25, 27, 28, 
30, 46, 49, 58, 63, 83-84, 102;* 
Mansfield, Mike J., \25n 
"Man's First Robot with Muscles," 

Mapai (Israel Workers') Party, 27, 
33, 34h, 37, 38h, 39, 65, 67, 104, 
117, 121, 122, 123, 129, 139, 140, 
141-42, I19n, 259 

Mapam (United Workers') Party, 

3Sn, 179a; 299 
Marcoule nuclear reactor, 29, 30, 37, 

43, 46, 56-57, 263 
Marine Corps, U.S., 51 
Mark, Hans M., 23 
Mark, Herman F., 23-24, 25, 26, 27, 

Marshall, Andrew W., 269-70 
Masada complex, 137 n 
"material unaccounted for" (MUF), 

244, 246 
Maxwell, Robert, 312, 315 
Mediterranean Allied Air Force, 

Meese, Edwin, III, 303 
Meet the Press, 72, 74, 77 
Meir, Golda, 121, 140, 162, 171, 202, 
Kennedy and, 117-18, 135 
Kissinger and, 230n, 236 
La von Affair and, 122-23 
as prime minister, 39 
Suez War and, 42, 43 
Yom Kippur War and, 225, 226, 
228, 233 
Mendes-France, Pierre, 35 
Meyer, Armin, 74-75, 110, 113, 114 
Middle East Task Force, 213 
Midrasha conferences (1964-65), 

136, 138-39 
MiG-21, 65, 103, 175, 183 
Mirage III, Uln, 175 
"missile gap," 50 
Jericho I, 120, 125, 143, 173, 175, 

212, 216, 301 
Project 700 program of, 174, 216 
satellite reconnaissance of, 231 
Scud, 12, 234 

surface-to-air, 286, 294, 298 
TOW, 310 
Mohammed Reza Pahlavi, Shah of 

Iran, 6, 173, 274 
Mollet, Guy, 36, 40-41, 42, 43 
Morocco, 21 
Moscow, reconnaissance 

photographs of, 13, 48 
Mossad, 76, 77, 163, \6Sn, 111, 181, 
220, 236, 289, 298, 299 
CIA's joint ventures with, 5-6, 



Vanunu kidnapped by, 198, 308, 
Moyers, Bill, 193-94 
Mozambique, 13/*, 266 
multilateral force (MLF), 152 
Murphy, George F., Jr., 248 
Myers, Henry R., 254-55 
Mystere aircraft, 42/* 

Nagasaki, 46, 48, 138 

Nahal Soreq nuclear reactor, 20, 67, 

101, 103, 132/* 
Namibia, 266 

Nasser, Gamal Abdel, 36, 53, 101, 
129-30, 135, 221, 227 
Communist help sought by, 35 
Israeli views of, 21, 22, 40, 42 
Kennedy and, 102-3, 107-8 
Pan-Arabism of, 21, 40, 55 
"preventive war" threatened by, 

rise to power of, 21, 104 
Sharett's secret negotiations with, 

33, 34, 35 
Six-Day War and, 166, 178 
Suez Canal nationalized by, 38 
National Liberation Front (FLN), 

21, 36 
National Photo Interpretation 

Center (NPIC), 107, 156, 283 
National Reconnaissance Office 

(NRO), 23* 
National Security Agency (NSA), 4, 
14, 51, 89, 188, 219, 220, 237, 
278, 293 
National Security Council (NSC), 
75, 98, 99, 105, 134, 168/*, 192, 
National Security Decision 

Memorandum (NSDM) No. 6, 
National Security Decision 

Memorandum (NSDM) No. 32, 
National Water Carrier, 249-50 
NATO (North Atlantic Treaty 
Organization), 7, 27, 36, 44, 
126/*, 152 
Naval Security Group, 89 
Navy, U.S., 162, 233, 242, 256 
Navy Intelligence, U.S., 285, 292-93 
Nazis, 60, 88/* 

Neeman, Yuval, 121, 233 

Netherlands, 265/* 

neutron bombs, 199-200 

Newsweek, 309 

New York Herald Tribune, 72/* 

New York Times, 71, 72, 77/*, 129-30, 

140/*, 142, 144/*, 153/*, 154, 169, 

212, 278, 307, 308 
New York Times Index, 160 
Nitze, Paul H., 108-9 
Nixon, Richard M., 170, 221, 247 
Israeli nuclear weapons policy of, 

5, 55/*, 168/*, 209-12, 261 
1960 defeat of, 97-98 
1968 election of, 191 
Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty 

undermined by, 209-10 
Watergate affair and, 232-33 
Yom Kippur War and, 228, 232-33 
Nixon administration, 177, 303, 


Israeli nuclear weapons and, 

209-12, 223, 225, 238 

Mossad favored by, 168/* 
Nobel Prize, 27, 102/*, 206 
North Africa, 21, 24, 36 
North Atlantic Treaty 

Organization (NATO), 7, 27, 

36,44, 126/*, 152 
Norway, 39, 48, 64, 77, 103, 111 
Novy, James, 127-28 
"nth" nations, 155 
nuclear energy, 19, 154, 251, 273/* 
nuclear espionage: 

death penalty for, 243 

see also Pollard, Jonathan Jay; 

Vanunu, Mordecai 
nuclear-free zones, 152 
Nuclear Intelligence Panel (NIP), 

Nuclear Materials and 

Equipment Corporation 

corporate takeovers of, 248, 252 
decontamination at, 253/*, 256-57 
"diverted" uranium recovered at, 

uranium diversion allegations 

and, 187-88, 242-57 
Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty 

(NPT) (1968): 
Johnson administration pressure 



Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty 
(NPT) (1968) (com.) 

on Israel and, 184, 186, 189, 

190, 191, 194, 209-10, 211 
signatories of, 11, 191, 209-10 
Third World and, 267* 
nuclear reactors: 
Canada-to-india sale of, 37, 39 
fast breeder, 251 
in France, see Marcoule nuclear 

reactor; Saclay nuclear reactor 
fuel cycles in, 203n-4n, 248, 273« 
in Iraq, 8-10, 11, 12, 13, 16 
in Israel, see Dimona nuclear 

weapons facility; Nahal Soreq 

nuclear reactor 
in Soviet Union, 28-29 
uranium fuel rods in, 10w, 29, 52, 

201, 202 
in U.S., 28-29, 45«, 84, 203 
see also chemical reprocessing 

Nuclear Regulatory Commission 

(NRC), 251-52, 257, 263 
Nuclear Suppliers Group, 267 
nuclear test ban, 85, 274 
nuclear weapons: 

"boosted" fission for, 200 
China's development of, 148^49, 

246, 271 
cost of, 66, 174, 179 
"defensive," 209 
Egypt and, 67, 69, 101, 129-30, 

133, 138, 152, 153« 
fission vs. fusion, 48-49 
France's development of, 28-31, 

63, 125, 145, 271 
French-Israeli joint development 

of, 11, 16, 23, 27^6, 59-65, 68- 

70, 118-19, 155, 263 
Great Britain's development of, 

28, 125w-26« 
Iraqi potential for, 9-10 
Israeli stockpile of, 198-99, 215- 

16, 225-26, 231, 235, 239, 240, 

241, 261, 268, 276«, 282-83, 290- 

Low Altitude Bombing System 

for, 194 
low-yield, 216, 267, 268, 271, 276, 


manufacturing tolerances for, 

miniaturization of, 177, 216, 217, 

NATO's European deployment 

of, 152, 155 
objections to, 59, 65, 67, 138, 

see also Dimona nuclear 

weapons facility, objections to 
Pakistan's development of, 262- 

63, 298 
proliferation of, 31, 74, 76, 92, 

128, 148-57, 163, 209-10 
South African-Israeli joint 

development of, 155, 263-68, 

Soviet development of, 48, 49-50, 

Soviet stockpile of, 49 
Stockholm Appeal against, 27-28 
"Temple" code-name for, 226 
test ban treaty on, 74, 105, 124-25 
test sites for, 49, 63, 120, 126, 131, 

145, 214/*, 265, 267-68, 271, 272 
U.S. development of, 23, 25, 27, 

28, 30, 46, 49, 58, 63, 83-84, 

102«, 112, 138 
U.S. stockpile of, 49, 215« 
"zero-yield" detonations of, 131 
see also hydrogen bombs; neutron 

Nye, Joseph S., Jr., 283 

Oak Ridge National Laboratory, 

Office of International Strategic 

Affairs, 125 
Office of Special Tasks (LAKAM), 

62, 131, 205, 288, 292, 295 
oil, 106 
Arab anti-U.S. embargo on, 232 
arms deals and, 16, 22 
nuclear energy and, 19 
Soviet-Middle East policy and, 

U.S.-Middle East policy and, 22, 

see also pipelines 
Oplinger, Gerald G., 272, 273, 308 
Oppenheimer, J. Robert, 19, 23, 25, 

83, 84-85, 91 
Ora Limited, 309, 310 



Organization of African States 

(OAS), 265n 
Osirak, Israeli bombing raid on, 8- 

10, 11, 12, 13, 16, (An, 259,286 

Pakistan, 48, 262-63, 298 
Palestine, 24, 35w, 87, 195, 298w 
Palestine Liberation Organization 

(PLO), 249, 288, 302 
Palestinian Arabs, 35, 38, 113-15, 

118, 167, 184 
Pan-Arabism, 21, 40, 55 
Parker, John C, 313-14 
Parker, Patrick J., 235 
Pean, Pierre, 64n-65n, 263, 307 
Peled, Elad, 177, 210 
Peres, Shimon, 25n, 104w, 117, 299 
Arab question and, 34, 38w 
as Ben-Gurion favorite, 33 
on Bergmann, 26, 45 
in coalition government, 296 
as defense minister, 265 
Dimona denial and, 69, 77, 78, 

118, 239 
Dimona financing and, 65, 66-67, 

on Eisenhower, 42-43 
IAEA inspections of Dimona 

opposed by, 134 
Israeli nuclear weapons program 
and, 20, 23, 27, 29-30, 36, 37, 
39, 43, 45, 59, 93, 129, 135, 141, 
154-55, 207, 265 
La von Affair and, 122-23 
Pollard spy case and, 286, 303 
as Rafi Party leader, 139, 140 
South African visit of, 265, 275 
Suez War and, 38, 42 
Vanunu case and, 198, 312 
Perrin, Francis, 28, 29, 39-40 
Persian Gulf War, 20ln 
Phalangists, 288 
phosphate fields, uranium extracted 

from, 19 
Photographic Intelligence Division, 

47, 50, 51, 54 
Pincher, Chapman, 76, 77n 
Pineau, Christian, 43w 
Elat-Haifa, 192/* 
Iranian, 173 
plutonium, 28-29, 30, 149w, 246, 247 

at Dimona, 11, 45-46, 56, 57, 69, 
72, 75, 120, 130, 156, 179, 201, 
202, 203, 241, 282 
in fission bombs, 48, 138, 200 
French production of, 28-29, 43 
reactor fuel rods as source for, 

lOw, 29, 52, 202 
recycling of, 251 
Podgorny, N. V., 175 
Podhoretz, Norman, 137 n 
Poland, 13w, 298 
Pollack, Herman, \(An 
Pollard, Jonathan Jay, 62, 285-305, 
background of, 291-92 
Israeli official denial and cover-up 

of, 285, 297, 300-301, 303-5 
Israeli recruitment of, 285, 292 
life sentence of, 285, 297 
Navy Intelligence career of, 285, 

number and types of documents 
provided to Israel by, 286, 293— 
94, 295, 296 
Power and Principle (Brzezinski), 273 n 
Powers, Gary Francis, 50, 51, 74 
President's Commission on the 

Holocaust, 88w 
Press, Frank, 273, 276-77, 279, 282 
Primakov, Yevgeni M., 299 
Prime, Geoffrey A., 7n 
Project 700 missile program, 174, 

"Prologue: LBJ's Foreign Affairs 
Background" (Gomolak), \27n 

Rabi, I. I., 102, 104 
Rabin, Yitzhak, 260, 265, 269, 299 
as defense minister, 296 
Dimona opposed by, 67, 137-38 
government positions held by, 67, 

189-90, 239 
nuclear weapons denial by, 190, 

194, 212-13 
Pollard spy case and, 286, 303 
Six-Day War and, 167, 178 
Rafael research and manufacturing 

agency, 203 
Rafi (Israeli Workers' List) Party, 

139, 140, 141, 167, 179/1 
Rafsanjani, Ayatollah Ali Akbar, 



Rand Daily Mail (South Africa), 279 
Rather, Dan, 183 
Rathjens, George H., 263, 281 
"rat lines," 145 
Raziel, David, 298/* 
Reagan, Ronald, 8-9, 15 
Israeli strategic cooperation 

proposal and, 287 
Reagan administration: 
Iranian arms sales and, 260ft 
Israeli strategic cooperation 

proposal to, 286-88 
Israeli-U.S. intelligence liaison 

agreement and, 8-17 
private vs. public reactions to 

Israeli bombing raid by, 8-9 
Reggane nuclear test site, 63 
Republican Party, 275 
Research Company for Financing 

and Enterprise, 65 
Reston, James A., 71 
Ribicoff, Abraham, 96, 98, 261 
Richard, Mark M., 305 
Richardson, Elliot L., 232 
robotics, 26, 202, 204, 205 
Roddis, Louis H., Jr., 280 
Rodman, Peter W., 228 
Rosenne, Meir, 304 
Rostow, Walt, 169, 176, 184, 190-91, 

Rothschild, Baron Edmund de, 66, 

Rothschild, Victor, 160-61 
Rothschild family, 31 
Rubinstein, Elyakim, 304 
Ruina, Jack P., 276-77, 281, 282 
Ruina panel, 276-77, 279-82 
Rusk, Dean, 149, 150, 152, 188-89 

Saclay nuclear reactor, 28, 39, 43, 

Sadat, Anwar, 227 

Begin's summit with, 4, 269 
Soviets ousted by, 221 
Yom Kippur War and, 222, 229, 
230-31, 232, 239 
Saguy, Yehoshua, 9-10, 293, 294 
Saint-Gobain Techniques Nouvelles 

(SGN), 29, 45, 69 
SALT II, 274, 275 
"Samson Option," explanation of, 

Sandia, 155, 156 

Sapir, Pinhas, 38ft, 65, 122, 179 

satellite communication devices, 

satellites, reconnaissance, 260, 261 
CORONA, 156 
downlinks for, 14, 15, 16 
GAMBIT, 156 
National Reconnaissance Office 

and, 23ft 
of Soviet Union, 231, 267 
VELA nuclear detection, 271-72, 

273, 274, 277, 278, 279, 281 
see also KH-11 reconnaissance 
Saturday Review, 205 
Saudi Arabia, 296 
Savannah River Plant, 203, 204 
Scali, John, 277-78 
Scbeersberg A, 181 
Schlesinger, Arthur M., Jr., 96/*, 

100, 105, 126/* 
Schlesinger, James R., 227, 230 
Schwartz, Harry H., 190, 191, 194 
Science Liaison Bureau (LAKAM), 

Scud missiles, 12, 234 
Seaborg, Glenn T., 149-50, 152, 153 
Sella, Aviem, 286, 297, 300, 301-5 
Senate, U.S., 95, 124, 126, 178, 186, 
209, 275 
Israeli fact-finding trip by, 261-62 
Senate Commerce Committee, 85 
Senate Foreign Relations 

Committee, 80 
Sephardim, 60-61 
Sabra and Shatila massacre, 288, 

293, 311 
Shalom, Avraham, 295, 304 
Shamir, Yitzhak, 298, 299-300 
in coalition government, 296 
Pollard spy case and, 286 
Shapiro, Zalman Mordecai: 
background of, 241-^42 
Bergmann and, 243, 248-^9 
innocence of, 243, 250, 252, 255- 

Israeli mission conducted by, 243, 

Israeli sympathies of, 188, 242, 

243, 247 
Qjrlearance of, 248 



uranium diversion allegations 
against, 188, 241-57, 261 
Sharett, Moshe, 33-34, 35, 37-38, 39, 

78h, 88, 146 
Sharon, Ariel, 35, 38h, 67, 295 
as defense minister, 287, 296 
KH-11 downlink sought by, 15, 

16, 17 
strategic cooperation proposal of, 

strategic goals of, 288-90 
as trade and industry minister, 
Shavit rockets, 104, 120 
Shin Beth, 220, 304 
Shlaim, Avi, 35 
Sinai Peninsula: 
in Six-Day War, 166, 167 
in Suez War, 40, 41, 42, 43 
in Yom Kippur War, 222, 231-32 
Six-Day War, 131a, 156, 160, 166-67, 
174, 175, 177-78, 184-85, 222, 
Smart, Ian, 63 
Smith, Gerard C, 263 
Smith, Hedrick, 212-13 
Solel Bone, 65 
Solidarity movement, \3n 
Sorenson, Theodore C, 100 
Sourassi, Abraham, 61 
Souster, Mark, 313 
South Africa, Republic of: 
Bull and, 2\6n-\ln 
Israeli uranium ore purchases 

from, 156, 264, 266 
nuclear weapons program of 
Israel and, 155, 263-68, 270, 
social upheavals in, 266-67 
Soviet Union, 21, 121, 155, 162, 265n 
Afghanistan and, 6, 16 
Arab military aid from, 7, 12, 35, 
65, 103, 128, 135, 136, 138, 139, 
153, 167, 170, 175-76, 183, 231, 
CIA-Mossad operations in, I3n 
defectors from, 54 
emigration to Israel from, 145, 

false alarm over Cuban-based 

troops of, 275 
as French nuclear target, 44 

intelligence leaks to, 7n-8n 
Israel as nuclear target of, 177 
as Israeli nuclear target, 16-17, 

66, 139, 174-75, 176-77, 214, 

216, 220-21, 260, 261, 270, 278, 

285, 287, 301 
Israel's relationship with, 21#, 61, 

KH-11 reconnaissance of, 13, 15, 

16, 17 
NATO's European nuclear 

deployment opposed by, 152 
Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty 

signed by, 191 
nuclear reactors in, 28-29 
nuclear weapons program of, 48, 

49-50, 280 
Pollard material given to, 286, 

297, 299, 300 
Shamir's overtures to, 298, 299- 

Stockholm Appeal backed by, 27 
Suez War and, 41 
Syria's military aid from, 294 
Teller's fear of first strike by, 

U.S. annual review of arms 

system of, 286 
U-2 reconnaissance of, 47, 48, 50, 

Yom Kippur War and, 226, 227, 

229, 231-35 
Space Research Corporation (SRC), 

SS-21 missiles, 294 
State Department, U.S., 13», 99, 

113, 143, 164, 261, 262, 291 
Barbour's snubbing of, 159, 161 
Bureau of Intelligence and 

Research (INR) of, 213 
on conflict of interest, 171 
Dimona intelligence and, 75, 76, 

80, 100, 106 
Eisenhower's commitment not 

upheld by, 178 
F-4 sale to Israel opposed by, 183, 

Israeli nuclear weapons as issue 

at, 214-15 
Middle East military report of, 

NUMEC and, 242 



State Department, U.S. (cont.) 
Osirak bombing condemned by, 9 
Palestinian Arabs and, 114 
Policy Planning Council of, 169 
Stemming the Tide (Seaborg), 149-50 
Stern, 308 
Stern, Yair, 298/* 
Stern Gang, 297-98 
Stevenson, Adlai E., 95 
Stockholm Appeal (1950), 27-28 
Stockholm International Peace 
Research Institute (SIPRI), 
Stockton, Peter D., 254, 256 
Stone, Dewey D., 96 
Strategic Air Command, 48, 233 
Strauss, Alice, 91 
Strauss, Lewis (son), 85 
Strauss, Lewis L., 54, 73, 83-92, 93 
as AEC chairman, 54, 73, 83, 84 
African homeland for Jews 

proposed by, 87 
anti-Zionism of, 88 
background and character of, 83, 

85-86, 88-89, 92 
Bergmann's secret friendship 

with, 85-86, 88, 142 
Dimona briefings and, 54, 73, 83, 

89, 90, 91, 92 
"dual loyalty" and, 89-92 
Eisenhower's support for, 84, 85, 

Holocaust consciousness of, 83, 

86-87, 89, 91 
Israeli nuclear weapons program 

supported by, 85-86, 91 
McCone and, 73, 83, 89, 91, 92 
Oppenheimer attacked by, 84-85, 

Senate's rejection of, 85 
Suez Canal, 38 
Suez War, 38, 39, 40-44, 175, 176, 

Sulzberger, C. L., 129-30 
Sunday Mirror (London), 308-9, 313- 

Sunday Times (London), Vanunu 
story and, 196-97, 198, 199/*, 
200, 202, 262/*, 307, 308, 309, 
312, 315 
surface-to-air missiles, 286, 294, 

Symington, Stuart, 95, 119, 212, 

Symington Amendment, 262-63 
Syria, 249 
Six-Day War and, 167, 175, 184 
Soviet military aid to, 7, 16, 175 
in United Arab Republic, 51, 121 
Yom Kippur War and, 222, 225, 
227, 235/*, 238/* 

Tahal, 173 

Talbot, Phillips, 114/* 
Talbott, Orwin C, 236-37 
Tamir, Avraham, 269-70 
Task Force 157, 233, 234-35 
Taylor, Theodore B., 131/* 
Technion-Israel Institute of 

Technology, 242 
telephone scrambler systems, 161 
Teller, Edward, 49, 187, 188, 250, 

Tel Nof fighter base, nuclear 

weapons storage facility at, 130, 

"Temple" nuclear weapons, 226 
Thousand Days, A (Schlesinger), 125/* 
"three no's," 176 
Time, 180/* 
Tiran, Strait of, 178 
Toon, Malcolm, 261-62 
TOW missiles, 310 
Tricontinental Pipelines, 192/* 
Tripartite Agreement (1950), 21-22 
tritium, 49, 52, 200 
Truman, Harry S., 21, 93, 94, 126 
Tuchman, Jessica, 273/* 
Tunisia, 21, 302 
Tunnel, see Dimona nuclear 

weapons facility, chemical 

reprocessing plant at 
Turkey, 48 
Turner, Stansfield, 5 

UNITA movement, 13/* 

United Arab Republic, 51, 53, 133, 

United Nations, 33, 109, 133, 265 
Resolution 194 of, 113-14 
Resolution 242 of, 186 
Security Council of, 186 
Suez War and, 40-41, 42, 43 
Yom Kippur War and, 233 



Zionism denounced by, 264 
United Nations Conference on the 

Peaceful Uses of Atomic 

Energy, 88 
United States: 
Great Britain's intelligence 

relationship with, 3, 7 
as heavy water producer, 39 
Iranian arms purchases from, 

Iraqi arms purchases from, 260/* 
Israeli arms embargo by France 

and, 183 
Israeli arms purchases from, 8-9, 

103, 108-10, 118, 119, 133, 135, 

139, 153, 183-84, 186, 189-92, 

Israeli commitments of, 176, 177, 

178, 183 
Israeli espionage activities in, 90, 

162, 292; see also Pollard, 

Jonathan Jay 
Israel recognized by, 94 
in Nuclear Suppliers Group, 267 
nuclear umbrella sought by Israel 

from, 21-23, 38,44, 55, 113 
nuclear war plans of, 48/* 
Persian Gulf War and, 201/* 
in Tripartite Agreement, 21-22 
Vietnam War and, 59, 142 
United States Intelligence Board 

(USIB), 254 
Unit (Detachment) 8200, 229, 237, 

uranium, 10/*, 52, 202 
in China's bomb, 149/* 
critical mass of, 28 
for Dimona, 68, 156, 180-81 
enriched, 29, 112, 132/*, 149/*, 188, 

201, 219, 246, 266 
as health hazard and pollutant, 

243, 245, 253, 256 
mining of, 3 1 
natural, 19, 27, 29, 39, 201 
NUMEC alleged diversion of, 

187-88, 241-57, 261 
oxide powder conversion of, 244 
scrap recovery of, 243-44, 253 
South African enriching 

technique for, 266 
South African sale to Israel of, 

155, 264, 266 

U.S. sale to Israel of, 132/* 
U-2 reconnaissance planes, 42/*, 150 
capabilities of, 47-48 
Dimona reconnaissance by, 50, 

51, 52-58, 63, 64, 72, 73, 90, 99/*, 

100, 106-7, 112, 132/*, 147, 156, 

Israeli knowledge of, 56 
Powers incident and, 73-74 
secrecy on, 47, 53-54 
Soviet knowledge of, 51 
Soviet reconnaissance by, 47, 48, 

50, 74 

Valindaba uranium plant, 266 
Vance, Cyrus R., 274, 278 
Van Doren, Charles N., 211 
Vanunu, Mordecai, 262/*, 290, 307- 

Dimona revelations of, 196-205, 

Israeli disinformation campaign 

against, 312-15 
Mossad's kidnapping of, 198, 308, 

VELA nuclear detection satellite, 

271-72, 273, 274, 277, 278, 279, 

Veliotes, Nicholas A., 222, 228, 

Vietnam, People's Republic of 

(North), 36, 150, 153 
Vietnam War, 59, 99, 125, 128, 142, 

151, 153, 189/*, 191, 250, 286 
Virostek, Cynthia A., 253/* 
von Hentig, Otto, 298/* 
Vorster, John, 265, 266, 275 

"walk-ins," 290 

Wall Street Journal, 308 

Walters, J. C, 278/* 

Warnke, Paul C, 189-90, 191 

War of Attrition, 212/* 

War of Independence, 19, 113, 141 

Warsaw Pact, 155 

Washington Post, 96/*, 239, 307, 308 

Watergate affair, 232-33 

Walters, Robert D., 311 

Webber, Robert T., 164, 165-66 

Weinberger, Caspar, 9, 287, 302 

Weisl, Edwin L., Sr., 126 

Weizman, Ezer, 275-76 



Weizmann, Chaim, 24, 25, 45, 87 
Weizmann Institute of Science, 19, 

25-26, 31, 64, 79, 99n, 132n, 205, 

206, 214, 219 
Wells, Algie A., 92 
West Bank, 113, 115, 118, 167, 184- 

85, 218/*, 259 
Westinghouse Electric, 242, 245, 251 
Wheeler, Earle G., 178 
Wiesner, Jerome B., 99n 
Wigner, Eugene, 102, 104 
Williams, Bruce, 237tf 
World War II, 60, 260, 265 

aerial reconnaissance in, 47, 56 y 


Yariv, Aharon, 162, 290 
Years of Upheaval (Kissinger), 228 
Yerdor, Reuven, 219, 293-95, 297 
Yiftach, Shimon, 130 

Yom Kippur War, 264 
events of, 222-23, 231-32, 233-34 
Israeli nuclear threat in, 179, 217, 

223, 225-40 
Soviet nuclear threat alleged in, 


Zadok, Chaim Joseph, 303, 304 
Zamir, Zvi, ISSn 
Z Division, 198, 291, 307 
"zero-yield" detonations, 131 
Zia ul-Haq, Mohammad, 263 
Zionism, Zionists, 24, 35n, 3Sn, 87n, 

88, 97, 124, 140, 146, 185-86, 

259, 264 
Zionist Organization of America, 

Zurhellen, Joseph O., Jr., 170, 171, 


About the Author 

Seymour M. Hersh was born in Chicago in 1937 and graduated from the 
University of Chicago. He began his newspaper career as a police re- 
porter for the City News Bureau in Chicago. After Army service, he was 
hired by United Press International in Pierre, South Dakota. In 1963 he 
joined the Associated Press in Chicago and in 1965 went to Washington 
for the AP to cover the Pentagon. He served as press secretary and 
speechwriter for Senator Eugene H. McCarthy in the famed "Children's 
Crusade" — the 1968 New Hampshire Democratic primary campaign 
against Lyndon Johnson. In 1969, as a free-lance journalist, Mr. Hersh 
wrote the first account of the My Lai massacre in South Vietnam, distrib- 
uting five newspaper stories on the atrocity through Dispatch News Ser- 
vice. He was hired by the New York Times in 1972 and worked out of 
Washington and New York until his resignation in 1979 to write The Price 
of Power. In 1986, he rejoined the Times' s Washington bureau to write a 
series of critical articles about Panama's Manuel Noriega. He again 
joined the Times in Washington in September 1991, on a special assign- 

Mr. Hersh has won more than a dozen major journalism prizes. For his 
account of the My Lai massacre he earned the 1970 Pulitzer Prize for 
International Reporting, the George Polk Award, the Sigma Delta Chi 
Distinguished Service Award, and the Worth Bingham Prize. For his 
reporting on the secret B-52 bombing of Cambodia, he was accorded the 
Roy M. Howard Public Service Award and a second Polk Award in 1974. 
The next year he won the Drew Pearson Award, the John Peter Zenger 
Freedom of the Press Award, the Sidney Hillman Foundation Award, 
and a third Polk Award for his stories on the CIA and Chile and on CIA 
domestic spying. In 1981 he received a second Sigma Delta Chi Award 
and his fourth Polk Award for two articles in the New York Times Maga- 
zine on the involvement of former CIA agents in arms sales to Libya. He 
is also the recipient of the National Book Critics Circle Award and the 
Los Angeles Times Book Award for The Price of Power: Kissinger in the Nixon 
White House. 

Mr. Hersh's previous books are Chemical and Biological Warfare: Ameri- 
ca i Hidden Arsenal; My Lai 4: A Report on the Massacre and Its Aftermath; 
Cover-up: The Army i Secret Investigation of the Massacre of My Lai; The Price of 
Power: Kissinger in the Nixon White House; and u The Target Is Destroyed": 
What Really Happened to Flight 007 and What America Knew About It. His 
articles have appeared in the New Yorker, the New York Review of Books, the 
New York Times Magazine, and the New Republic. He lives in Washington, 
D.C., with his wife and three children. 


Seymour M. Hersh was born in Chicago in 1937 and graduated from 
the University of Chicago. He began his newspaper career in that city as 
a police reporter. After army service, he joined United Press International 
and then the Associated Press. He served as press secretary and speech 
writer for Senator Eugene H. McCarthy in the 1968 New Hampshire 
Democratic primary campaign. In 1969, as a free-lance journalist, Mr. 
Hersh wrote the first account of the My Lai massacre in South Vietnam. 
He worked for the New York Times in Washington and New York for 
seven years until his resignation in 1979 to write a book about Henry 
Kissinger. He has twice rejoined the Times on special assignment. 

Mr. Hersh has won more than a dozen major journalism prizes, 
including the 1970 Pulitzer Prize for International Reporting, George 
Polk Awards, Sigma Delta Chi Distinguished Service Awards, the Worth 
Bingham Prize, the Drew Pearson Award, the John Peter Zenger 
Freedom of the Press Award, and the Sidney Hillman Foundation 
Award. He is also the recipient of the National Book Critics Circle Award 
and the Los Angeles Times Book Award for The Price of Power: Kissinger 
in the Nixon White House. 

He lives in Washington, D.C., with his wife and three children.